Senior fee introduced to graduating class

Story by Andy Hildebrand, Sports Editor

The countdown has begun for many seniors as they start their final semester before graduation. This year’s class has an extra task to check off on the road to commencement.

A new $25 senior fee is being charged to every graduating senior.

After the 2011 budget cuts, employees charged with the task of organizing the commencement ceremony left their posts.

Suddenly, the university was without a plan for graduation.

In April of 2012, then-chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich transferred the duty to the chancellor’s office. That’s when Events and Special Projects Coordinator Debra Lang took over.

“We wanted to provide a top notch graduating experience for the students leaving UWEC,” Lang said. “It’s not an event that one person can organize though. It became apparent that a part-time commencement organizer was needed.”

The only remaining question was who would pay the new employee’s salary. Lang said it was not a decision made lightly.

“We looked at what our sister institutions were doing, given the trend for state funding was on the decline,” Lang said. “Lots of our peer schools were struggling the same way.”

She put together a team that spend the next year looking for any alternative to requesting student funding.

However, the group couldn’t come up with any other viable options. They went before then Student Senate President Phil Rynish to propose the fee.

An email was sent out to any students that would be immediately affected by the fee, marking the first time students were alerted to the new cost. Senior public history major Blake Sykora said the news came as a rude awakening.

“They could have updated me beforehand,” Sykora said. “I thought it was tricky and backhanded. Here I am, all pumped to graduate, then all of a sudden I get an email saying I have to pay extra money.”

Lang insists that’s the opposite effect they were aiming for.

“We want to include students in the process more,” Lang said. “We are working to pool a committee together made up of employees and students from both the graduating and future graduating classes.”

Senior elementary and special education major Emily Dillner also had a problem with the way Lang broke the news about the new charge.

“I don’t really know what it is,” Dillner said. “I just have a fee. It wasn’t communicated well at all. It was just one quick email.”

The fee is here to stay. Lang remains committed to keeping its impact on students low. Eau Claire’s fee is the lowest out of all the peer schools she studied.

The fee does more than just pay a new employee’s salary, too. Some of the money is going towards a “Senior Countdown” that will make a student’s job easier when organizing their graduation.

“Folks will be able to come together to get most of their services accomplished in one fell swoop,” Lang said. “They’ll be able to get their cap and gown, tickets, have career services look at their resume and meet with the alumni association.”

Lang said she hopes the “Senior Countdown” will help ease the backlash from students regarding the new $25 fee.