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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Commencement ceremony cut short following heat safety concerns

The ceremony was halted after six people were hospitalized for heat-related medical aid and was rescheduled for this Sunday

By SONORA SLATER — campus@theaggie.org

UC Davis’ Friday undergraduate commencement ceremony was cut short following concerns about extreme heat.

Temperatures in Davis were in the mid-90s Friday morning, with an excessive heat warning in place in the area. The ceremony was held outdoors at the UC Davis Health Stadium, scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. According to the Sacramento Bee, UC Davis received 35 calls for heat-related medical aid during the event, and six of those people were later transported to local hospitals.

Around 11 a.m., UC Davis posted a message on Twitter and Instagram encouraging graduates who had already crossed the stage to leave with their families.

“It is extremely hot,” the message reads. “If you have crossed the stage, you do not need to stay to the end. Feel free to leave and head over to Hutchinson Field where there is COLD water and air conditioning at the UCenter.”

Soon after this message was released, the ceremony was halted, and an announcement was made in the stadium telling all graduates to leave the field. At 12:59 p.m., UC Davis posted a message and a link to a press release about the situation on Twitter.

“Based on health and public safety concerns due to heat and at the urging of the UC Davis Fire Department, Fire Prevention Services, and Environmental Health and Safety, we had to end today’s commencement ceremony early,” the press release reads. “We deeply regret that some students did not get a chance to walk across the stage. […] We appreciate your understanding and know this has been frustrating.”

The message goes on to invite any students who did not have the opportunity to walk graduation to return with their families for a separate ceremony this Sunday, June 12. According to the release, more information for graduates and their families will be available soon on the UC Davis News website.

UC Davis is holding three undergraduate graduation ceremonies this year for the first time, with the other two planned for Saturday, June 11, and Sunday, June 12. According to an update to the original press release from the university, those graduating on Saturday will not have their names read or walk across the stage. 

After receiving student feedback, another update from the university on the morning of June 11 announced that Saturday’s ceremony would include the reading of names until all had been read or Safety Services determined that it was too hot to continue. All graduates who attended Saturday’s ceremony had their names read and were able to walk across the stage. 

Heat safety precautions for both Saturday’s and Sunday’s graduations were modified, with misters, fans, shade tents and water stations available on the field, and an option for family members to watch a livestream of the ceremony in the University Credit Union Center if they wished.

Following Saturday’s ceremony, the university released an update about plans for Sunday, and accommodations for students who were unable to cross the stage on Friday or attend the commencement on Saturday.

Sunday’s ceremony will begin at 7 a.m., according to the updated post. Students will begin crossing the stage by 7:30 and have their names read. Students who did not have the opportunity to walk across the stage on Friday or Saturday will be contacted at a later date to give their input on a future ceremony, according to the update, and the speakers who were scheduled to talk at the commencements are recording their speeches to be sent to graduates.  

Erin Klausen, who graduated Friday with a degree in environmental sciences and management from UC Davis, described her experience during the ceremony.

“We got there at [6 a.m.]” Klausen said over Instagram direct message (DM). “There was never any shade at any point. No fans. No misters. We all were able to sit down by 9:15, over an hour after the ceremony was supposed to start. I knew some people were getting water cups but the line was long and they were running out.”

​​Bea Rondon, a graduate at Friday’s ceremony with a degree in cinema and digital media, said she was standing in line for about two hours waiting to walk into the stadium. 

“I’d consider myself one of the ‘lucky ones’ because I was among the first batch of students to walk in, so I got to sit earlier than others,” Rondon said via Instagram DM. “[It] didn’t help that we were wearing our thick dark-colored gowns [and] standing up for a long time. […] I personally didn’t feel like passing out from the heat […] but I was uncomfortably sweaty for the entire duration of the commencement.”

Klausen said that because of the heat conditions, she and her friends left before the ceremony was canceled. She said that she isn’t planning on walking at the rescheduled ceremony on Sunday because her family wouldn’t be able to come. 

“So many of us can’t afford to continue schooling after undergrad — this was our one shot at walking and getting recognized in some way,” Klausen said. “We didn’t get that.”

Rondon said that her family flew from the Phillipines to watch the ceremony and that they may or may not be able to attend the rescheduled graduation.

“Because of the heat warning, we advised my grandmother to not attend the in-person commencement,” Rondon said. “I’m not sure if I’ll attend the rescheduled ceremony, because if it’s going to be in the heat again or conflicts with our prior commitments, then we probably won’t go. […] I’m thankful that my family came all the way from the Philippines to support me, and I know they’ll try their best to attend the rescheduled ceremony, but the last thing I want to do is further inconvenience them or put their health at risk.”

Rondon went on to note that they were thankful that the UC Davis Fire Department was considerate of attendees’ health.  

“I’m thankful that the Fire Department was considerate of our health, so I’m not mad at the cancellation itself,” Rondon said. “I’m more frustrated at whoever organized this event and thought it was okay to push through with it outdoors when the temperature was forecasted to be in the hundreds. I’m deeply disappointed in the lack of foresight that could have prevented this unfortunate turnout.” 

As of June 10, the UC Davis Director of Ceremonies and UC Davis Safety Services did not respond to requests for comment. 

Written by: Sonora Slater — campus@theaggie.org

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 8 p.m. on June 11. 

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