Senior English major Ben Koch said he and his friends have always talked about auditioning to be a student commencement speaker.
But unfortunately for Koch, he will never receive the opportunity to audition to speak at his own commencement this spring.
This year is the first that student commencement speakers were nominated by executive directors as opposed to years past, when students were able to nominate themselves.
“I found out in weird ways [about the new process,]” Koch said. “I heard through the grapevine that several students were nominated by faculty members and had already gone through several rounds.”
Alan Galsky, vice president for student affairs, asked the executive directors and other team members to nominate students who they believed would be worthy of consideration to be a commencement speaker.
“I and other key administrators strongly felt that one of the highest honors is to be selected to be as a commencement speaker,” Galsky said. “So we handled the nomination process just as we would with any other student award.”
In previous years the commencement committee ran the selection of commencement speakers, and the process was open to any student who wished to apply. Galsky said they changed the process because it is a high honor.
“It was not that the previous process didn’t work,” he said. “We think that it is a higher honor and therefore should be treated in the same respect.”
Koch said he is disappointed that because he was not nominated, he will not be given the chance to speak.
“I have always looked forward to reading a speech, and I wanted to give it a go,” he said. “Auditioning to be a commencement speaker has always been a tradition, but now my chance is gone.”
Koch said it is unfair that this opportunity is now only open to a select number of students.
“I think it goes against what graduation really is,” he said. “I’ve always viewed graduation as something for the students, not just the university. Now not all graduating students have the opportunity to share their feelings and to celebrate the university.”
Galsky said the process has worked so far and he thinks it will be used in the future.
“This is a higher honor and the student nominated and chosen deserves that honor,” he said.
The nomination process consists of three rounds, and the selection committee is leading into its third round with five finalists.
The third round is the final audition, and students have been asked to prepare and present a 5 to 10 minute speech they would use at commencement said Galsky.
“I would like to have the process complete with a finalist and alternative speaker chosen by the third week of April,” he said. “It being the second week of April, I would say we are right on the mark.”