Many Have Trouble Attending Convocation

Photo: Students wait to cross the Zellerbach Auditorium stage and receive their diplomas at Sunday's December convocation ceremony, which had been sold out weeks beforehand.
Nick Fradkin/Staff
Students wait to cross the Zellerbach Auditorium stage and receive their diplomas at Sunday's December convocation ceremony, which had been sold out weeks beforehand.

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As UC Berkeley December 2008 graduates got ready to walk across the stage at Sunday's convocation ceremony, dozens of their friends and family members stood in line outside Zellerbach Hall, unable to get a seat.

Tickets were supposed to be sold at the door, but the event had completely sold out weeks beforehand, said Colleen Rovetti, director of University Events and Ceremonies.

The winter ceremony has historically been held in Zellerbach Auditorium, which seats about 1,800 people, and has never previously been oversold, Rovetti said. The spring ceremony is held in Hearst Greek Theatre, which has a capacity of 8,500.

Rovetti said her department worked with Cal Performances and the Senior Class Council, part of the Californians, to sell tickets for the event.

However, representatives of all three groups said they were not directly responsible for ticket sales.

By the time organizers realized they had sold too many tickets, there were no other locations available on campus to hold the event, Rovetti said.

"We knew we were oversold, but there's not a lot we could do at this point," she said. "We couldn't get a new space."

Before the event, graduates could purchase a maximum of six tickets at $2 each, one of which would allow them to walk in the ceremony. But some students purchased their tickets after the Dec. 3 deadline, which could have contributed to the shortage, Rovetti said.

"Many people got their tickets very late and seemed to think they should be accommodated even though they got their tickets past the deadline," she said.

Upon finding that family members who had traveled long distances would be unable to see them graduate, many students said they felt the campus was to blame.

"I'm completely furious," said December graduate Julie Thibedeau. "The fact that they won't spend the same amount of time and effort making it as awesome as it should be really sucks ... it's like we're not as important as the spring students."

Thibedeau said she did not find out about the convocation until just a few weeks prior to the event. She said she happened to have family coming to town, so she planned to buy tickets at the door.

When she found out through the event Web site that tickets had sold out, Thibedeau decided to look for tickets on Craigslist, where others offered to buy tickets for $20 or more.

An hour after the ceremony began, a small crowd, including some who had already purchased will-call tickets, gathered outside Zellerbach Hall and began pulling on the doors, prompting four police officers to address the situation.

The police spoke to the crowd and then led individuals who had purchased will-call tickets to the backstage area.

There, they could sit and listen to the ceremony or stand and watch from backstage.

Despite the difficulties some students faced, others said the process had been simple and painless.

"It was no trouble at all," said graduate Kelvin Than, who purchased his tickets the first day they were available. "If someone follows the instructions, it's very easy to get the tickets."

To prevent overselling the event in the future, Rovetti said the campus is considering holding future ceremonies in Haas Pavilion, which holds up to 14,000 people.


Contact Kat Murti at [email protected]

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