I write to correct erroneous information published in your article of May 16, "Move of Bowie State Commencement to U of Md. Sparks Outrage, Protest."
Bowie State University celebrated the graduation of nearly 650 students on May 19 in a ceremony that welcomed more than 9,000 family members and friends to witness the occasion of this momentous milestone in the lives of their loved ones. For the second consecutive year, the university hosted this event in a venue that provided a comfortable, climate-controlled environment with ample access to safe parking and at a cost that was within the amount annually budgeted for commencement ceremonies. There was no additional $200,000 cost associated with the location change as stated in your article.
While the Comcast Center is located at the University of Maryland, it is a publicly available facility and the only one in Prince George's County that can accommodate more than 10,000 guests. It is regularly used by organizations across the region for large gatherings and offers Bowie State University the opportunity to make our commencement ceremony more accessible to the multi-generations of family members that our students want to attend their graduation.
The decision to hold the Bowie State University spring commencement at the Comcast Center was well considered by the campus community and grew from student requests a few years ago for a more comfortable setting than our outdoor Bulldog Stadium. The majority of our students are not against the venue as stated in your article.
Frequent experiences with exceedingly hot weather or drenching rain prevented many grandparents from attending the ceremony and made for an uncomfortable day for those who did attend. Additionally, as the size of our graduating class increased, the number of cars descending on the campus exceeded the capacity for safe parking and pedestrian movement. Many persons resorted to parking far from the campus and walking long distances along a busy four-lane highway to attend the ceremony, a situation that was inviting disaster.
Surveys of students, faculty, and staff before the final decision was made last year revealed strong support for the indoor facility, particularly among the students who are the focus of the commencement ceremony. Surveys after the ceremony indicated a high degree of satisfaction from those who attended. The fact that First Lady Michelle Obama agreed to be our commencement speaker had no bearing on the matter as you reported. The decision to hold the ceremony at Comcast Center was made before Mrs. Obama accepted our invitation, but it proved to be particularly advantageous as everyone was able to comfortably enjoy her inspiring remarks to our graduates.
Regrettably, a few members of our university community continue to voice their objection to the decision supported by the majority. While they are entitled to their opinion, we cannot allow them to spread incorrect information.
Weldon Jackson, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Bowie State University