Education

USCB students must pick between loved ones after weather forces graduation indoors

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USCB will open their Hilton Head Island campus building to students and the public on Nov. 26, 2018
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USCB will open their Hilton Head Island campus building to students and the public on Nov. 26, 2018

Taylor Herrington is set to graduate from the University of South Carolina Beaufort Friday evening, and her immediate family, grandparents and boyfriend are all coming into town to watch her walk in the ceremony.

Some of her seven loved ones will be watching it on TV, though.

As thunderstorms are expected to roll into Beaufort County on Friday, USCB announced Thursday it would hold its commencement ceremony indoors.

Graduates and their families won’t be sitting out in the rain, but they are limited to four tickets each.

Herrington, who is from Baxley, Ga., decided a few hours before the ceremony she would give her four tickets to her mom, dad, sister and grandmother, leaving the others to watch the live-stream from elsewhere on campus.

“With only four tickets, I’m left to choose who gets to watch in real time,” Herrington said. “Originally, when it was outside, we were able to have as many (people) as we wanted.”

The ceremony will now take place at 5:30 p.m. May 3 in the Bluffton campus Sand Shark recreation center, as opposed to the Library Plaza.

“While an indoor event is not ideal, it does ensure that the ceremony will go on in its entirety,” USCB Registrar Gary Sutton said in a news release. “A lightning strike within a five-mile radius of an event requires cancellation of any outdoor activity.”

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The University of South Carolina Beaufort held its commencement ceremony on April 28, 2017 on the library plaza of the Hilton Head Gateway campus. Jay Karr jkarr@islandpacket.com

Mark Elliott, a student in coastal ecology and conservation, took a different approach from Herrington for his family coming in from Virginia for the ceremony.

“I didn’t want to be the one to choose,” Elliott said. “So I was just going to let them figure out who was going to go in (to the gym).”

Early on Friday, campus officials increased the number of allotted tickets from three to four, which means Elliott’s mother, daughter, aunt and mother’s boyfriend can all watch him get his degree.

Other students have taken to Facebook, offering to pay for extra tickets so their road-weary families can watch the ceremonies in person.

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The University of South Carolina Beaufort held its commencement ceremony on April 28, 2017 on the library plaza of the Hilton Head Gateway campus. Jay Karr jkarr@islandpacket.com

USCB has 2,116 students across its three campuses in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. On Friday, 345 seniors are graduating with bachelor’s degrees at the recreation center.

The center first opened in 2015 and is 22,581 square feet, according to the USCB website. About 1,600 people will be in the recreation center Friday night, according to Candace Brasseur, the senior director of communications for the school.

That’s as many people as possible while staying within the fire code, she said.

This is the first time in 15 years that the commencement ceremonies will take place indoors, according to the news release.

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A graduate waves to loved ones in the crowd during the University of South Carolina Beaufort's commencement ceremony on April 28, 2017. The commencement was held on the library plaza of the Hilton Head Gateway campus. The 2017 graduating class of 398 students was the largest in the university's history. Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, the first African American president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission, delivered the keynote address Jay Karr jkarr@islandpacket.com

Some students asked on social media why the school couldn’t reschedule the commencement exercises.

“The University of South Carolina System schedules commencement ceremonies for its regional universities five years in advance to enable the university president to confer degrees at each exercise,” the release said. “For that reason, the date is inflexible.”

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.

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