This spring’s St. Peter’s University graduates learned Friday that they won’t be getting their degrees at the massive PNC Bank Center – but, instead, at the school’s on-campus recreational facility. And they're steamed.
Brenda Coates, 21, of Linden said she’d knuckled down for four years at the Jesuit university in Jersey City “just for me to find out that I have to graduate in the gym.”
The Victor R. Yanitelli, S.J. Recreational Life Center, to be exact, the Montgomery Street home of the Peacocks and Peahens of basketball, swimming and volleyball.
SPU commencements for years had been held at what was once known as the Garden State Arts Center off the Garden State Parkway in Holmdel.
Construction, however, has required a change in plans for the May 18 Class of 2020 ceremony, according to an email the university sent Friday to the urban school's community, including its 400 underclass graduates.
“The Commencement Committee came to this decision after exploring a number of other options and coming to the determination that [the Yanitelli Center] is the most suitable venue to ensure broad participation from students and their family and friends,” the email said.
Among other things, the move means four fewer guest tickets (down to six from 10).
While the PNC Center can accommodate up to 17,500 spectators, the "RLC" -- opened in 1975 -- has a bleacher capacity in the gym of 3,200.
The student newspaper, The Pauw Wow, broke the news Thursday, citing several sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Coates and others quickly mounted a Change.org petition that gathered nearly 1,500 signatures by noon Saturday.
They want the school to seek another venue – perhaps the Prudential Center or the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, both in nearby Newark.
Coates, for one, said she “won’t go down without a fight.”
The Pauw Wow reported that the person with overall responsibility for the commencement, Frederick Bonato, intends to attend the March 9 Student Government meeting to answer questions and address concerns.
“The RLC has the advantage of giving us total control of the venue," Bonato, SPU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, told NJ.com. "This will allow us to host an amazing event and our intent is to make this a very special day for all our graduates and their families.”
SPU Class of 2020 Will Graduate In The RLC (The Pauw Wow)
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