GLASSBORO To accommodate larger crowds as student enrollment rises, Rowan University will hold this year's commencement on its football field instead of its traditional location, the school announced Wednesday.
The university initially planned to hold the main graduate and undergraduate ceremonies on the University Green, outside Bunce Hall, the oldest building on campus. That space can hold 10,000 people, university spokesman Joe Cardona said: 2,000 students and 8,000 guests.
But 11,000 people showed up last year, he said, and 1,000 visitors were left standing. The student crowd alone was greater than expected, he said - 2,200 students showed up at rehearsal the day before graduation.
"Last year we were at approximately 2,000, and at graduation practice . . . we had to add 200 chairs the night before to the student section," Cardona said. "That's why we're anticipating, we're giving ourselves a little bit of room."
Rowan expects about 2,500 undergraduate students to participate this year.
Thus, the move across campus: Coach Richard Wackar Stadium can hold about 13,000 people, Cardona said. Seats for 6,000 to 7,000 people will be available on the field itself, with the remainder fitting on bleachers or temporary seats brought in.
An initial plan to rent bleachers for the University Green would not have worked, Cardona said, because it would have added a net total of only 400 seats.
"This was a very hard decision, particularly for me, because I'm a three-time graduate, former student leader back in the day, so I know how special it is on the main green," Cardona said.
"But to stand by and just be like, 'Oh, we'll just let people stand,' you can't do that. When the numbers are staring you in the face, you can't accommodate everybody. You have to make the move," he said.
Rowan's graduate commencement will be at 10 a.m. May 15 at the stadium. The undergraduate ceremony, where Gov. Christie will be the speaker, will be the next day, also at 10 a.m.
After the main undergraduate ceremony, students are split up for secondary ceremonies, where they receive their actual diplomas. Each student receives three guest tickets to each ceremony, with up to three additional tickets possible. The ticket system is necessary, Cardona said, because of public safety issues - a volunteer was pushed out of the way last year by a student's upset family member.