Cal Poly graduation marred by drunken, belligerent behavior. Not a proud day

Debacle may be too strong a word to describe Sunday’s graduation ceremony at Cal Poly — but things did get rowdy.

There were two arrests for public intoxication; one apparently drunk grad was carried out on a stretcher; several gate crashers who didn’t have the required tickets wound up occupying seats intended for ticketed guests; grads smuggled in flasks of alcohol (as if they needed more social lubrication); and there was general confusion and disorder.

Oh, and lots of grads left with their guests as soon as they picked up their diplomas, instead of doing the classy thing and waiting until the bitter end.

Cal Poly said it’s “heard concerns from participants and attendees” about Sunday’s event — Saturday’s ceremony went smoothly — and is working to make things better in the future.

“Reports from Sunday’s ceremony included belligerent and confrontational behavior and intoxication among some participants and attendees. This behavior was not befitting the significance of Commencement and did not reflect the university’s expectations of its graduates or any members of the Cal Poly community,” university spokesman Matt Lazier said via email.

Drunken behavior is nothing new at graduations — five years ago, city and university officials asked bar owners in downtown SLO to open later in the day, in the hope of ending the tradition of an early morning “pub crawl,” since too many students were showing up drunk for graduation.

But there are reports that Sunday’s ceremony was exceptionally unruly, and some are blaming Cal Poly for the mess, since it made some changes this year.

Instead of holding three ceremonies, as it has in the past, it had only two, which meant there were bigger crowds, more scrambling for seats and longer diploma lines. And the ceremonies started later, at 5 p.m., instead of in the morning or afternoon.

The administration rightly figured that the weather would be cooler and more comfortable in the evening. But the new start time also gave students and guests more time to party — and some critics say the university should have recognized that and stuck to daytime ceremonies.


Let’s place blame where it belongs: on those grads and guests so lacking in manners and maturity that they would get sloppy drunk and risk spoiling the ceremony not only for themselves, but also for their friends, families and fellow grads.

Look, nobody begrudges grads a pre-ceremony cocktail or glass of champagne, but falling-down drunk is not a good look when you’re trying to maneuver in a cap and gown.

Besides, graduation is one of those milestone events meant to be savored. Think weddings and baptisms — not bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Next year, Cal Poly should go back to the old way of doing things.

Hold three or even four ceremonies to make crowds more manageable.

Schedule them in the morning or afternoon, not because it will give students a shorter window to drink, but because that works out better logistically.

It gives grads a chance to attend the ceremony, hang out with family and friends after the event, maybe go out to dinner and then party — as a proud alum of Cal Poly.

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