University says 'no' to commencement speakers

Bradley University hopes to cut down on time and keep the ceremony moving

Bradley University is hoping to save time and money—as well as keep everyone awake—by dropping guest commencement speakers from the ceremony, Josh Logue reports for Inside Higher Ed

According to university president Gary Roberts, the decision was mostly made to shorten the ceremony.

"Spending an extra hour to listen to somebody speak that probably nobody wants to hear in the first place seems like not a very smart thing to do," says Roberts, who became Bradley's president in January. "I'm told the ceremonies were dragging on for over three hours. I lose attention after about 30 minutes."

Bradley graduates about 900 undergraduate students each year in a three-hour ceremony that is attended by nearly 6,500 guests. Last year's commencement speaker portion totaled 40 minutes between the introduction, conferring of an honorary degree, and the actual speech. 

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Short speeches by a student, a recent alumnus, and the university president remain on the schedule for the ceremony.

Roberts says giving up a guest commencement speaker will also save the university a "moderate sum" in travel and lodging costs, "but that had nothing to do with the decision."

Instead of paying its commencement speakers, Bradley used honorary degrees as an incentive to attend.

Another upside to the decision is removing the burden of finding a speaker that will appeal to everyone, Roberts says.

According to Roberts, there has been no negative pushback so far, but he predicts some students may object because they were not consulted about the new arrangement (Logue, Inside Higher Ed, 3/29). 


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