Grad ticket scarcity creates student-run black market

*Students’ names have been changed to preserve confidentially.

The “SFSU Class of 2016” Facebook group page has transformed into a black market for the buying and selling of graduation tickets. A limit of seven tickets per student with purchase of graduation regalia has sparked this demand, as students scramble to find alternative ways to get their family, friends and loved ones into this year’s Commencement 2016 at AT&T Park.

“I’m actually pretty angry at the University for their handling of graduation,” said Xana, a graduating liberal studies major. “ … I see gross mismanagement in the system they have set up, and I blame President Wong — I’m really upset with his leadership. We’re starving ourselves for our education, and we can’t even invite our family. We saddle ourselves with debt, and you can’t even give me ten tickets?”

Nicole Lange, director of university events, said in an email that the ceremony was held at Cox Stadium in the past, but required weeks of preparation with capacity limited to around 23,000 people. Lange said AT&T Park provided the opportunity to allow 35,000 seats, and that it would cost less than converting Cox Stadium into the event venue.

Lange said the seven ticket limit is based on the quantity of seats and the amount of graduating students that have in the past taken part in Commencement.

“The Commencement Office has always encouraged graduating students to only take what they need,” Lange said. “Based on historical data, this will put us at capacity at AT&T Park and we will not have an inventory of unused tickets.”

The “Guest Ticket Policy” in the Commencement 2016 information reads “SF State prohibits the direct or indirect sale or auction of Commencement tickets.”

“The selling of tickets is explicitly prohibited and we do not condone it,” Lange said. “We encourage students to only take the number of guest tickets they plan to use. If they find they have extra tickets, they are free to gift them to fellow graduating students in the spirit of generosity.”

Lange said SF State students are expected to comply with the restriction, and selling tickets would be considered a violation of the Standards for Student Conduct which would be grounds for student discipline.

Xana found the elaborate ceremony to be worthless, saying seven tickets would barely cover her immediate family. Because of this, she is instead opting to attend her department graduation and skip the University event altogether.

“ … It makes my leaving, my graduation from this University tainted that I can’t include the people that I love in this monumental event which I’ve saddled myself with $25,000 worth of debt to do,” she said.

Sarah, a graduating student, said in an email that she decided not to attend Commencement because it’s too long and impersonal. Her department graduation’s tickets were $20 a piece, so she saw an opportunity to pay for those by selling the other tickets she wouldn’t be using on the Facebook group. She said she sold them to three people and no negotiating was involved.

“It was very easy and the tickets sold within ten minutes,” Sarah said. “I connected with the buyers via Facebook DM and email. As far as if these people actually come through with the sale, I won’t know until Tuesday when I pick up and deliver the tickets to those I sold to.”

While the availability of tickets to purchase has proved beneficial for many students in dire need, others see the online market as an advantageous way for students to make a quick buck.

Teresa, a graduating cinema major, said in an email that she initially used the “SFSU Free and For Sale” Facebook group to search for tickets for her 17 family members that would be attending. One seller asked for $40 a ticket, which she found outrageous. The cheapest she could find in the group was $20 per ticket, so she instead purchased the tickets from friends.

“These tickets are free, so any money made from them is a 100 percent profit,” Teresa said. “I understand making a few bucks, but I talked to a guy whose friends had given him 14 free tickets, so he was selling 21 tickets for $40 each. It’s like people are trying to pay rent with these tickets.”

She noted that instead of what should be a celebratory time for students to share with their guests, the online auction of tickets has made students just in it for the cash.

“People have lost sight of the fact that people buy tickets are doing so because they have guests coming to see a very special occasion,” she said. “It’s heartless.”

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