LINCOLN — Some liked the casual feel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's makeshift commencement ceremony and some expressed disappointment that it couldn't have been more formal, the university's chancellor said Saturday.
Harsh weather scotched what was to be the first UNL commencement ever at Memorial Stadium. Officials decided to move the event to the nearby Hawks Championship Center, the Huskers' indoor football facility.
The formal onstage walk-through and diploma handoff were replaced by a less formal activity in which graduates received diplomas at tables on a staggered schedule, depending on their college.
Suzanne Fletcher of Omaha, who received her diploma in the College of Arts and Sciences, called family members and advised them not to come because the Memorial Stadium ceremony was off.
“It was a little disappointing,” said Fletcher, 21. “I think overall it was OK, for the situation.”
Chancellor Harvey Perlman said he made the decision early Saturday because it was rainy, cold and windy.
Perlman said it was an easy call because he couldn't ask the 1,700 graduates and 12,000 to 14,000 guests to endure bad weather for 2½ hours.
“Given the circumstances, I thought it went really well,” Perlman said in a telephone interview. “There was some disappointment that we didn't have a formal ceremony.”
The Devaney Center wasn't available because it's being converted into a volleyball venue, and Pinnacle Bank Arena isn't completed yet.
Perlman said Plan B could have been to move the ceremony to Lincoln's Pershing Center, but its small size would have required commencement to be broken into three ceremonies, he said. Furthermore, he said, Pershing isn't on campus, and it doesn't provide an excellent atmosphere for commencement.
Grace Troupe, a plant biology graduate from UNL, said the situation was better than “just to receive my diploma in the mail. But I appreciate that the university tried their best to make it as special as they could.”
Perlman said some families liked the fact that they could be near the table as their graduate received a diploma, and they could be photographed together immediately after.
Some lines became a bit long, he said. Graduates of the large College of Education and Human Sciences, for instance, eventually had to be placed into two lines because one line grew too long.
A few people grumbled on Facebook and elsewhere that UNL should have had a better Plan B in place.
Another told Perlman that fans sit through bad weather at the stadium for football games, and they could have sat through it for commencement, too. Perlman, obviously, disagreed.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha's commencement went ahead as scheduled. Earlier this week, UNO decided to move its ceremonies inside because of the weather forecast, spokesman Charley Reed said.
A university-wide ceremony was held at Sapp Fieldhouse, with individual colleges holding graduations at locations across campus throughout the day.
World-Herald photographer Brynn Anderson contributed to this report.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1123, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/rickruggles