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CSUN Students Protest Graduation at Bowl

March 30, 1989|PHILIPP GOLLNER | Times Staff Writer

About 90 Cal State Northridge students on Wednesday angrily demanded that the university drop its plans to hold this year's graduation in the Hollywood Bowl.

The students said they were upset that graduating seniors will not be allowed to bring more than three guests to the May 26 ceremony. They also said they were angry that university officials may not be able to shake the hand of each graduating senior at the event, as has been customary in past ceremonies. And they charged that students were not consulted in planning for the graduation, which has been the subject of heated debate on campus since plans were announced Feb. 22.

"A lot of people have been here four or more years and it would be nice to get some kind of personal recognition for our accomplishments," said 21-year-old LeAnne Ferry, a graduating senior who is majoring in finance.

Two weeks ago, students persuaded administrators to back away from plans to hold the event at 7 a.m. at the bowl. The starting time was changed to 11 a.m., but the controversy over other aspects of the ceremony has not died down.

CSUN Vice President Edmund P. Peckham, who attended the noon protest in front of the university's administration building, said the graduation must take place off campus because construction has closed the campus area in front of the library normally used for the ceremony. Administrators limited the number of guests to prevent overcrowding at the bowl, which holds 17,960 people and has parking for 3,500 cars, university spokeswoman Ann Salisbury said.

Students who attended the protest at times shouted in anger at Peckham, who attempted to defend the university's handling of the matter.

"It's not a question of what's going on" at the graduation, one protester shouted. "It's how the administration is treating us."

Student Vote Asked

Janice Morris, an Associated Students senator, said she has two petitions with a total of 900 signatures opposing the graduation plan. Protesters proposed a special ballot to determine how many graduating seniors oppose the plan.

Salisbury said graduation probably will be held on campus again next year. She said a campus athletic field used for last year's ceremony could not be used again this year because the university does not have enough money to rent bleachers. Last year, bleachers were paid for by a one-time, $80,000 grant from the California State University system chancellor's office. The total cost of last year's graduation was about $120,000, compared to $50,000 for this year's event, Salisbury said.

Peckham said seniors probably will receive some form of individual recognition at the ceremony. But the Hollywood Bowl's design prevents students from marching on stage and shaking President James W. Cleary's hand, Peckham said.

The graduates will be recognized individually at receptions given by academic departments on campus after the ceremony, Peckham said.

Salisbury said 3,900 bachelor's degrees and 750 master's degrees will be awarded at the graduation, the largest in the university's history.

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