ATLANTA – Hundreds of students have signed a petition asking for their school to re-do their graduation.
The ceremony at Georgia State University was cut short because of rain Thursday night, and they say they want university officials to make it up to them.
“That was just, it was devastating, it was terrible,” graduate Brooklynne Hart said.
She and her friends are 2018 graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences at GSU.
Thursday’s graduation lasted just 15 minutes after rain cut it short. Many had family members and friends who flew to Atlanta for the ceremony.
“(I’m) devastated. I’ve been working endlessly, nights, days, I have over a 4.0,” graduate Sophia Marchese told Channel 2’s Lori Wilson. “I mean, I’ve built so much to this moment.”
Georgia State officials shuffled students under the stadium as rain began. About 15 minutes later, they were told to go back out to the seats and sit where they wanted.
“The music starts to play, and we think, ‘OK, this is really happening. Oh my goodness,” Marchese said.
But when they were told to turn their tassels, they realized their names weren’t being called and they weren’t going to walk across the stage.
“It’s an important thing to them and it’s an important thing for us as we put this event together,” said Don Hale, vice president of public relations and communications for GSU. “So we’re really disappointed that we weren’t able to do the usual ceremony last night.”
But the group of graduates wants more than sorry, they want a re-do. They started a petition and already have gotten hundreds of signatures, asking the university for a proper ceremony for them.
But Hale, who said the degrees were conferred, said students voted to graduate in an outdoor ceremony and they knew the risks. He said they followed school policy by shortening the ceremony and getting everyone out of the rain.
“It was clear that there was a threat of lightning,” Hale said. “And we didn’t want to jeopardize our students or their families. Their safety was our primary concern.”
Meghan Gordon had family members who flew in from Puerto Rico for the ceremony.
“I was heartbroken really,” Gordon told Wilson. “It took a lot to get where I was and to accomplish what I did, and I felt like the school didn’t respect that.”
Steve Marchese was one of the parents who was disappointed about what happened Thursday night.
“It’s just unfair and it’s disrespectful, and it’s an embarrassment,” he said. “I love my daughter and I always want to fix everything that I can for her, but there’s no fixing this.”
Many of the students who Wilson spoke with want a better memory of their special graduation day.
“I worked jobs all through college,” Sophia Marchese said. “We worked for this moment, to walk across the stage and to be recognized for that, and it was taken from us.”
“Not even to have an ounce of care, that really made a flame inside of me that I had to do something about it,” Hart said.
Hale said once students and parents were in the stadium and the ceremony had started, it’s logistically impossible to reschedule the ceremony. That’s why they shortened it and completed the ceremony.
“Their degrees were conferred,” Hale said. “But we are disappointed that we weren’t able to read the names of the individual students, which has been our practice for the last year.”
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