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With Chicago at DePaul's disposal, why is graduation in Rosemont?

Published: Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

Allstate Arena

Meghan Bower

All DePaul University Colleges, except the Law School, host their commencement ceremonies at the Allstate Arena, despite it being 17 miles from the Lincoln Park campus.

Most DePaul University seniors might feel like it was just yesterday when their parents dropped them off at their Lincoln Park dorms. Fast forward four years of endless hours spent in the library cramming for finals, mixed in with timeless memories with friends, and just like that . . . in June it will be all over.

Along with graduation come the slings and arrows of facing the real world: A looming rent payment and the pressure of finding a job in a downtrodden economy. For some DePaul seniors, the stress of being a college graduate won't come after graduation, but instead during the months prior to the day that, for many, will be their final intimate connection with the university.

On top of getting mom and dad settled for the weekend, students walking in the colleges of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (LAS), Communication, Commerce, and the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) ceremonies at the Allstate Arena are expressing frustration at the chore of finding ways to transport guests back and forth between Rosemont and Chicago.

The Allstate Arena is 17 miles away from the Lincoln Park campus. Without taking traffic into consideration, the trip takes approximately 30 minutes by car. The university does not provide shuttles or any type of transportation for guests commuting to and from the Allstate Arena.

Transportation will likely not figure to be an issue for most in-state graduates who can simply jump in the family minivan and head to Rosemont. On the other hand, out-of-state students feel burdened.

Karim Lalani, a senior from Georgia who will be walking in the LAS ceremony, takes issue with DePaul holding commencement at Allstate without offering transportation.

"It's not good. It's absolutely an inconvenience for everybody," said Lalani, who is expecting five to six family members to attend.

Lalani has yet to tell his parents where graduation is being held because he said he is embarrassed to do so, and views the upcoming commencement as "an unfortunate ending."

Much of DePaul's student body is composed of students not from the Mid-West, which means their families will likely be flying to Chicago to attend commencement. In addition to airfare, hotel, food and miscellaneous costs, most families will be saddled with renting a car or paying for a taxi to see their graduate receive his or her diploma. If they decide to stay in a Loop or Lincoln Park area hotel closer to campus, they may also need transportation to the many attractions Chicago offers.

Lisa Sullivan, the director of events at DePaul, is in charge of planning the commencement ceremonies. She contends that the cost of travelling to Rosemont can be mitigated by staying in a hotel nearby the Allstate Arena. Sullivan noted that the university offers a list of several recommended hotels, with some offering discounted rates. Sullivan also suggested taking the Blue Line for those coming from somewhere within the city.

"It's not a nightmare to get there via public transit," Sullivan said.

Sullivan acknowledged the potential difficulties of managing traffic on commencement day but held strong to the advantages of holding the ceremonies at Allstate, which enables the school to offer free parking as well as free and unlimited tickets for guests.

Sullivan also pointed to the practicalities of holding such a large event.

As a DePaul alumnus who graduated at the Allstate Arena in 1991, Sullivan alleged that she has considered several venues in the city, but maintains the stance that no place other than the Allstate Arena can handle DePaul's large audience.

"We don't have our own stadium," Sullivan said. "We don't have another venue to bring it back to the city. It's a decision based on need."

Sullivan also alluded to the comfort the school has in working with the Allstate Arena, which has hosted dozens of past DePaul commencement ceremonies.

"They know what we need and work with our production company to make it happen," she said. "I take it very seriously because I am an [alumna]. I want their sendoff to be as special as can be."

Charles Suchar, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, which graduates the largest number of students among the DePaul University colleges, agreed that the university is limited to where they can hold commencement.

"There is not a single place on campus that could hold the thousands [of guests]. There is just no other place to do it," he said.

Suchar has been a member of DePaul's faculty for the past 44 years and has seen many graduations, some of which have been held at venues other than the Allstate Arena, including DePaul's quad, Navy Pier and the McCormick Place. However, he maintained that the Allstate Arena, with its free parking, accessibility and less competition among trade shows, qualify the Rosemont venue as the best place to hold commencement. Moreover, Suchar said outdoor venues such as the DePaul quad are risky because of weather concerns, like rain or intense heat.

A number of students would like to see administration take a page out on the other commencement ceremonies put on by DePaul. For example, the College of Education, the School of Music, the Theatre School, and the School for New Learning all graduate at Chicago's Civic Opera House in the Loop. At these ceremonies, students and their guests are able to take in Chicago's world-class, trademark architecture.

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