This story was updated at 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 28. This will be updated as more information is released. Check back for more.
Saint Peter’s University will relocate this May’s commencement to the Yanitelli Recreational Life Center, the school’s gymnasium.
The university officially confirmed the RLC as the graduation venue in an email sent to the school community Friday afternoon. The announcement comes after multiple sources, who asked to be unidentified, informed The Pauw Wow on Thursday, Feb. 27, that due to ongoing construction at the PNC Bank Arts Center, where commencement is usually held, the university has decided to hold graduation on campus.
“The Commencement Committee came to this decision after exploring a number of other options and coming to the determination that it is the most suitable venue to ensure broad participation from students and their family and friends,” the email said.
Commencement will be held on Monday, May 18 with two separate ceremonies -- the Traditional Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony and the Graduate and School of Professional and Continuing Studies Commencement Ceremony. According to the university website, the graduates will receive 6 guest tickets, which is four less than the previous year.
The changes have left members of the graduating class scrambling to reverse the decision.
A petition was created on Change.org by Breanna Coates, a senior at Saint Peter’s, in light of the news on Thursday, demanding a reconsideration of venue. As of 5:24 p.m. on Friday, over 1,080 people have signed it.
“I never thought Saint Peter’s would stoop that low and give us a mediocre graduation,” Coates said on Friday. “We worked our tail off… This is a slap in the face, not only for students, but for families and the whole community in general.”
Chevoyne Green, a senior at SPU and co-creator of the petition, told The Pauw Wow she feels like the seniors’ efforts seem to be “overlooked,” especially in the emailed announcement.
“(This petition) is so the school can recognize that it’s not only our opinions and concerns,” Green said. “There’s other seniors, community members and alumni who totally disagree with this decision.”
The Pauw Wow has reached out to the commencement coordinator, but no official comment has been made.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Frederick Bonato, who has overall responsibility for commencement, said in an email -- obtained by The Pauw Wow -- that he plans to attend the next Student Government Association meeting to answer graduation concerns and why the RLC “will be our best option in the absence of the PNC Arts Center’s availability.” The meeting will be on Monday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Degnan of Saint Peter's Hall.
Monmouth University, has also been displaced from the PNC Bank Arts Center, but will hold their graduation at the Kessler Field. In 2017, the university stadium underwent renovations, which allows a seating capacity to more than 4,200 seats. According to Monmouth University’s website, the Kessler Field is, “one of the finest venues in New Jersey.”
In 2018, Saint Peter’s claimed they were going to establish plans to do “significant” renovations and upgrades to the university’s athletic facilities after a $10 million donation from Saint Peter’s College alumnus Joseph Panepinto.
Former Athletics Director Bryan Felt stated to the Pauw Wow in a previous interview that the plan was to renovate the RLC to accommodate athletes and non-athletes. At this time, only the weight room has been remodeled.
The Jersey Journal, a news outlet that covers Hudson County, reported Friday afternoon that Saint Peter’s graduating class is “angered” by the decision.
“With (the announcement) they’ve kind of made their decision, but we won’t really stop until we come to some type of resolution,” Green said. “We cannot have our graduation in the gym. That’s just completely unacceptable.”
“I will not go down without a fight,” Coates added.