Resources for Graduation Event Professionals

3 ways to respond to spectator disruptions at commencement

a guide for handling spectator disruptions at commencementprogress-tracker-separatersix ways to discourage spectator outbursts at commencementprogress-tracker-separaterhow to respond to spectator disruptions at commencement

In an earlier installment, we looked at some methods to help discourage spectator disruptions at commencement.  Here in our concluding segment, we will examine some methods at your disposal to respond to these types of outbursts when they occur.

Some institutions are so serious about maintaining complete silence during the commencement ceremony that they have implement a zero tolerance policy, such that any outbursts from spectators while graduates are being recognized results in immediate removal of those spectators from the venue.  (Ejection from commencement on YouTube.com)

Many schools who have implemented a formal ejection policy have found it only exacerbates the problem.  The unfortunate reality is that there will always be subset of spectators who don't care about the decorum of the ceremony or disturbing those around them.  Many within that subset seem to crave the negative attention associated with breaking a formal policy on spectator silence during graduate recognition.  Additionally, because they're about to be ejected, and because they have no desire to stay until the end of the ceremony — they scream when their graduate is announced and then simply get up and walk out before police or security reaches them.

According to ABC News, and personal accounts by several GradImages photography teams, some schools have gone so far as to have violators arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.  It is likely that your approach to handling spectator disruptions may not need to reach that level.  Regardless, do not forget the two takeaways from Part 1 of this series:

  • If yelling and cheering for one graduate carries over to significantly interfere with the individual recognition of the next graduate in line, then a disservice has been done to that second graduate and her family;
  • Your approach to handling spectator outbursts at commencement needs to take your ceremony's unique circumstances into consideration.

With respect to the reading of graduate names, here are three of most common responses schools and universities have while yelling and screaming coming from the stands:

how to respond to spectator disruptions at commencement

Scenario "A"

This is essentially no response at all.  If the reader is announcing graduates at a pre-set pace (e.g. one right after another with just a short pause, or one name every 4-5 seconds) then the reading continues, regardless of whether or not the next graduate's name can be heard.

Pros: keeps the ceremony on pace

Cons: could prevent the next family from hearing their graduate's individual recognition on stage, and does nothing to discourage subsequent outbursts from other spectators for their graduate.

Scenario "B"

When an yelling or screaming occurs for one graduate that is significant enough to warrant action, the reader pauses, and next graduate in line is not released to cross the stage until the noise subsides.

Pros: helps to ensure that the name of each graduate can be heard

Cons: may slow ceremony slightly, and does little to discourage subsequent outbursts from other spectators for their graduate

Scenario "C"

An emerging trend is a hybrid of Scenario "B" (above), except that each time the reader has to pause to allow a spectator disruption to subside, he/she pads a noticeable amount of additional time after the disruption has ended, before the reading resumes.

The effect is actually quite interesting.  By delaying the reading, the reader and stage party are directing the rest of the audience, and their subsequent displeasure at the delay, towards those individuals.  It is one thing to annoy a small number of people who are not likely sitting near you, but if you see others doing the same thing and being embarrassed in front of the entire venue, then you might rethink things.

Pros: helps to ensure that the name of each graduate can be heard, and can help to discourage subsequent outburst from other spectators for their graduate.

Cons: may slow ceremony, and does require singling out offenders in front of others

There are no perfect answers to this problem.  Each school's approach to handling spectators outbursts needs to reflect both the unique variables surrounding their ceremony as well as the best judgment of commencement officials.

a guide for handling spectator disruptions at commencementprogress-tracker-separatersix ways to discourage spectator outbursts at commencementprogress-tracker-separaterhow to respond to spectator disruptions at commencement

Topics: Commencement Preparations Best Practices Etiquette