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PHCC: Gym ceremony must do

With 250 graduates and only 600 gymnasium seats, there won't be enough room for all the families and friends.

By KENT FISCHER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


When students at Pasco-Hernando Community College graduate next month they won't have as many family members in the audience as in years past, and that's left some graduates steamed.

Graduates this year each have only two tickets to the May 8 commencement ceremony. For the first time, PHCC will hold its end-of-the-year commencement in its gymnasium, instead of on a parking lot that used to allow unlimited seating.

School officials figure there will be enough seating for 600 people, and with about 250 graduates expected to participate in the ceremony, it worked out to about two tickets per student.

But some students have a dozen or more family members wanting to attend, and they're upset that there won't be room enough for all of them. PHCC will televise the ceremony live and allow family members to watch it in a nearby auditorium, but that doesn't sit well with some students.

"A lot of us are aggravated because we work all day and take classes at night in order to graduate," said graduate Cindy Ferdon, "and our family has to sit across the street and watch it on TV."

Paul Szuch, PHCC's vice president for educational services, said last year's student government association made two recommendations to the college on how it could improve its graduation ceremony.

The first idea was to split it in two. PHCC has always had a single ceremony for all students regardless of when they finish their course work but that often left summer students waiting nearly a year to participate in a ceremony. The students recommended that the college have two ceremonies, one in December and one in May.

The student government's other idea was to hold the ceremony indoors instead of on the hot parking lot asphalt.

PHCC agreed to both ideas. Moving the ceremony indoors, though, means not everybody can attend.

"We don't have unlimited seating," Szuch said. "We can only accommodate so many people in the gym."

Students had the opportunity to get extra tickets Monday morning. Graduates who did not pick up their two tickets by April 20 lost them. The college made those tickets -- about 250 of them -- available to other graduates on a first-come, first-served basis. About 130 of those tickets were available to students on PHCC's Ridge Road campus.

Ferdon was one of the students who tried to get extra tickets, but they went fast and she missed out. Ferdon said PHCC should have limited the number of extra tickets that students could claim.

"There were people picking up tickets for other students who weren't even there," she said. "It wasn't fair."

Ferdon said that only about the first dozen or so students in line got the extra tickets, meaning each student snatched up roughly 10 tickets each.

College president Robert Judson apparently agreed. He told PHCC's Board of Trustees on Tuesday night that the college should have limited the number of extra tickets that students could claim.

Szuch told the Times that he thought the college handled the ticket allotment as best it could.

"It's a no-win situation," he said, "but it's better than Ticketmaster."

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