Leyte university faces backlash over limited graduation accommodations

Jerry Yubal Jr.

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Leyte university faces backlash over limited graduation accommodations

OUTSIDE. Some parents, barred from entering the main graduation venue of the Leyte Normal University, wait outside.

courtesy of Vert Manog/An Lantawan

While honor students and their parents were inside Leyte Normal University’s Alba Hall, others had to watch a livestream in a multipurpose hall or listen outside

LEYTE, Philippines – The state-owned Leyte Normal University (LNU) drew criticism after it proceeded with its graduation rites in a school facility that could only accommodate graduates with Latin honors and their parents, despite pleas to hold the event in a larger venue.

While graduating students with honors and their parents were inside LNU’s Alba Hall during the two-day ceremony on June 13 and 14, the others had to make do with watching it live-streamed on a LED panel in a multipurpose hall of the Human Resource Development Center (HRDC).

Those without tickets gathered outside on bleachers, where they could only listen to the event through a single speaker, as no screen was available for viewing.

Relatives of non-honor graduates settle on bleachers
ON BLEACHERS. Relatives of non-honor graduates settle on bleachers outside the graduation venue, listening to the event through a single speaker. courtesy of Vert Manog/An Lantawan

It was the same setup at LNU during its 2023 graduation rites, which earned criticism from its own students and the public.

According to a university committee led by Dr. Evelyn Aguirre, LNU president, graduates with Latin honors received two tickets each: one for a parent or relative to escort them on stage and another for a companion who could stay only at the multipurpose hall.

Graduates who did not receive Latin honors were given only one ticket each, allowing just one relative or companion to be inside the multipurpose hall. Those without tickets were told to stay on bleachers outside the hall.

Alba Hall’s seating capacity is only 1,260, which was not enough to accommodate the university’s 1,509 graduates and their parents.

Even before the official venue announcement, students had already appealed for a larger venue that could accommodate all. Among the options raised by the student community was the Tacloban Astrodome, which has a seating capacity of 4,500.

Aguirre, however, pointed out that holding the ceremony outside the university would diminish the solemnity of the occasion.

She cited an experience the university had when it held the event at the Tacloban Astrodome. “When we held it at the Astrodome, I pitied the parents; they left immediately after the ceremony. You couldn’t even take pictures because everyone was in chaos. The solemnity of graduation was destroyed, and we don’t want that,” she said.

She maintained that holding the graduation within the LNU “promotes and instills a strong sense of belonging.”

The Alba Hall was used as LNU’s graduation venue from 1986 until 2006. It was only in 2008 that it was held at the Tacloban Astrodome. Since then, LNU has consistently held its graduation rites at the HRDC Multipurpose Hall. It was only last year that they started using the Alba Hall again, which prompted public criticism after parents were made to stay outside the venue and were not allowed to escort the students as they walked on stage to receive their diplomas.

Aguirre also pointed out that LNU needed to adhere to Commission on Audit (COA) regulations, as it would incur additional costs if the university opted for an alternative venue outside or extended the ceremony over three days.

Dr. Cleofe Lajara, dean of LNU’s College of Arts and Sciences, said the practice of allowing only the parents of graduating students with Latin honors inside the main graduation venue aligns with the university’s long tradition.

“Traditionally, we do that. Last year, we also did that. The students with Latin honors sacrificed to attain that,” Lajara said.

Many students, however, voiced their disappointment with LNU’s decision, criticizing the university for being “out of touch” with the needs of its graduating students and their parents during such a significant milestone.

Parents watching live-stream of Leyte Normal University graduation
LIVESTREAM. Parents inside the HRDC Multipurpose Hall watch the graduation ceremony on an LED wall via livestream, as only one parent or relative of students with Latin honors is allowed inside Alba Hall. courtesy of Vert Manog/An Lantawan

Jom (not his real name), who graduated with Latin honors, urged the LNU committee to be more attuned to student concerns when organizing major events like graduations, considering students and their families as primary stakeholders.

“Institutions of higher learning should be responsive to their communities and demonstrate that they value the inputs and well-being of their students and their families,” he said.

A parent who stayed outside the venue couldn’t help but feel disappointed by her experience during the graduation event.

“Disappointed kay suhag gud ito namon nga anak. Nag-expect gud nga bunyog unta kami han ira processional. Baga’t maupay unta waray nala unta kami pakanhi-a,” the parent said.

(I’m really disappointed because it was our eldest’s graduation, and we expected to be able to escort him during the procession. It would have been better if they hadn’t invited us at all if this was the arrangement.)

Netizens have also taken to social media to criticize the university’s decision-makers.

“Years of parental sacrifices don’t deserve to be viewed on LED panels,” one netizen said.

Another said parents of graduates have “the right to see their sons and daughters go up on stage to receive their diplomas since they also gave their efforts, hard work, dedication, and compassion to their course or degree.” – Rappler.com

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