A letter to the Class of 2014

20th May 2014

Dear members of IU Southeast’s Class of 2014,

I know how special and important commencement is to you. Commencement is a time of well-earned celebration during which we recognize the achievement of a goal for which you have worked many years and for which you have sacrificed greatly. I know that family and friends take time from work, travel far and make other significant efforts to celebrate this milestone with you. Our staff and administration worked throughout the entire academic year to make this event a worthy celebration for you.

Please know I share your deep disappointment that despite our best efforts, despite my best intentions, our May 12 commencement ceremonies didn’t go at all as planned.

When we made the decision at 5:30 p.m. Sunday to hold the ceremonies outside, the weather forecast indicated only a 30 percent chance for precipitation during commencement, with no mention of lightning or severe weather. Our goal was to ensure that our graduates could celebrate with as many loved ones as possible, rather than having to ration tickets for an inside ceremony. Given the forecast on Sunday, we made the call to have the ceremony outside. Then, our emergency management staff monitored the weather throughout the day Monday and noticed forecasts turning worse in mid-afternoon. So when two storm cells and several lightning strikes occurred in our area, our first priority had to be for the safety of our commencement participants. I’m confident that terminating the ceremony after the immediate conferral of degrees was the right decision, indeed the only safe decision, given the circumstances in which we found ourselves at the time.

Weather, like much else in life, is out of our control, and yet, we must live with its consequences. The decision to cancel the ceremony after conferring degrees was deeply disappointing. There is no way we can make up for the fact that weather kept us from having the commencement we planned, the one we all desired, nor can we make up for the fact that you and your loved ones were greatly inconvenienced by the decision to stop the ceremonies.

Though we can’t undo what’s been undone, we have worked to create alternative forms of recognition that honor our graduates’ achievements. We created your school commencement ceremony to provide you with a celebration in which you were able to hear your name called and walk across a stage, shake hands with the chancellor, receive a certificate, receive a charge to the class and have your photo taken in a cap and gown. Our goal at IU Southeast is to turn a difficult situation into something that will create positive memories for you, our graduate, and that demonstrates our ability to be resilient in the face of circumstances beyond our control.

I find an important reminder in this experience for all of us here at IU Southeast, and especially for you as you commence on your journey.

Every day, after you do the best you can do, after you make your decisions and take your stand, remember to recognize that God laughs at our plans, and that there may be reasons for things that we can never fully understand. So be ready and willing to change on a dime, to have a clear sense of what is in your control and not in your control, to take responsibility for the decisions you’ve made and the actions you’ve taken, and to apologize when your decisions and actions have, in any way, adversely impacted others. Then, and ultimately, let it go and leave the outcome to God.

Class of 2014, I congratulate you for your achievement. I hope your experiences at IU Southeast have inspired you to do your best, treat others with respect and to move forward in faith. Because, as Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.”

Please accept my hearty congratulations on your accomplishment, my sincere apologies for your disappointment last Monday, and my deep appreciation for your resilience in the face of adversity. We at IU Southeast are very proud of you, our graduates.

Forever a Grenadier!

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, PhD
Interim Chancellor