GAINESVILLE, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - The University of Florida is catching a lot of heat after Sunday’s graduation ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was brought to halt by Mother Nature.
“It started pouring, right as I was walking across the stage,” said Matt Narciso.
He was one of the last graduates to ceremoniously walk across the stage and shake the university president’s hand. UF Spokesperson Steven Orlando says lightening is to blame for the ceremony being cut short.
“It was heavy rain, no question about it, and there’s a rule that says if you have an event in the stadium if lightning strikes within eight miles of the stadium, you have to have a 30-minute delay. It’s just like a football game. Every time there’s a new lighting strike, that starts the 30 minute clock over again. By the time we got to 11 o’clock, we knew we would not be able to complete the ceremony,” Orlando explained.
According to UF’s records, 1,700 students ordered caps and gowns for that ceremony, and 1,500 showed up, expecting to walk. Somewhere between 200 to 300 of those graduates didn’t get their time to cross the stage. Now, new graduates and parents are taking to social media.
New York Times best-selling author Roxanne St. Claire took to Twitter, blasting UF and it’s president saying, “because of your stupidity, my daughter didn’t get to walk.”
One student started a Change.org petition, demanding the director of commencements resign.
“We’ve definitely heard from students and parents through emails and social media posts. Quite honestly, we are as disappointed as they are. This is their moment to shine. It got foreshortened and we definitely don’t want that to happen,” Orlando said.
UF is planning another full recognition ceremony for the students at the O’Connell Center, scheduled for May 18. Narciso is moving to Philadelphia in a few days. He says he doesn’t know any classmates who will be coming back for that make-up ceremony.
“People get job offers when they’re done. They’re not going to have time to come back,” said Narciso.
He says he had nine family members coming into town for graduation. Had he not received his turn to walk, he says he’s not sure any of them would have been able to go back for the make-up graduation ceremony.
The spokesperson for the university says, future graduation ceremonies where students will be walking across the stage individually, will be held indoors. For the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the largest of all colleges at the school, they will be back to hosting two ceremonies every semester to accommodate all their students at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.