The drama of the psychology department graduation celebration is finally at a close: Student Lea Lunden’s low cost alternative ceremony for psychology graduates is now nearly fully funded, helped along by a $1,000 donation from the California Democratic Party Chair John Burton.
The alternative celebration slated for May 25 will cost $15 a ticket, and has a home at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park. SF State alumnus Senator Leland Yee is scheduled to be a speaker at the ceremony, according to the ceremony’s website.
Burton said he decided to support Lunden’s alternate celebration because he was rankled by the psychology department’s $85 ticket for the Hornblower cruise ship celebration.
“I think it was elitist, I don’t think it’s fair,” Burton said. The cost would shut out too many people, he said. “For a lot of families, that’s a very big deal.”
SF State has one large graduation ceremony that is paid for through tuition, but there are so many thousands in attendance that individual graduate’s names are not called as they walk the stage. Departments responded by holding their own graduation “celebrations,” where they call individual students up to a stage by name.
Most of those celebrations are free or low cost. However, this was not the case with the psychology department, who offered students and their families a trip on the Hornblower cruise ship that many students say is beautiful but too expensive.
To attend the Hornblower celebration a family of four would end up paying $340 in graduation tickets alone, not counting gowns, dinner, and the rest.
Burton’s decision to fund the alternative celebration organized by Lunden was because of his need to help families see their kids get the recognition they deserve, he said.
Psychology student Lea Lunden, president of the local Psi Chi honors society chapter, tried to arrange for a low cost alternative. Her plan was initially met with cooperation by the department, but was later told to stop.
Lunden was on her own, she said. She didn’t have the help from her mentors or teachers.
The psychology department chair did not respond to email inquiries from Xpress.
It was after reading about Lunden’s plight in the SF Examiner that Burton decided to help her out, he said.
Burton is a political powerhouse in California politics, having held many high ranking positions like President pro tempore of the California State Senate. He is also SF State alumnus, class of 1954.
“I would hope that next year there will be a change in policy,” Burton said. “I know the school president sounds concerned about it.”
Indeed, SF State President Leslie Wong said in an San Francisco Chronicle article that he would look at potentially changing the way the school-wide graduation works, making Lunden’s alternative ceremony possibly unneeded in the future.
For now though, Lunden was grateful for Burton’s donation.
“(Without Burton’s help) we’d still be able to do it, but it would be a much closer call,” Lunden said. “We’re within $600 of covering costs.”
With only 40 more tickets, and a week until the celebration, she was hopeful. Any money the celebration draws in past the cost of the ceremony will be returned to the ticket holders equally, or donated to a charity to be decided later, she said.
Lunden said that though the fight was long and drawn out, the important thing was that some students who want their whole families to see them graduate now will be able to.
But, Lunden noted, “If we had been able to have the support from the (psychology) department in the beginning in February, I feel like we would have had more people and it would have been better for more students.”
Since the issue arose, the psychology department reduced the price of the Hornblower cruise to $81 a person, a reduction of $4.