Several parents of Spelman College graduates were irate Sunday when they missed their children’s graduation after being barred from the ceremony.
Parents from as far away as California and Canada said they were kept from entering a half hour before the graduation Sunday afternoon. Some said they didn’t know the doors would be shut 30 minutes before the ceremony.
Spelman officials said they didn’t do anything different than in past years, but parents who said they arrived at or just after 2:30 p.m. for the 3 p.m. ceremony said some leeway should have been given. Rainy weather made it difficult to get to the ceremony, a fact only complicated by traffic being delayed or rerouted to accommodate President Barack Obama’s motorcade when he traveled to nearby Morehouse College to speak at its commencement.
“This is not a happy day,” said Melvin Cox of Oakland, Calif., who missed his only child’s graduation. “I can’t put into words how upset I am.”
Cox said he flew in from California and arrived at 2:30 p.m. but was barred from entering.
“Not to be allowed to attend your child’s graduation is unconscionable,” he said.
Belinda Robinson from San Francisco said about 150 people were kept from entering the ceremony.
“I am very upset. My heart is broken,” she said. “This is for my daughter. I wanted her to really enjoy the experience. This crushed her.”
Kenneth Clark of Brooklyn, N.Y., said he arrived a few minutes past 2:30 for the ceremony.
“Our daughter graduated and I didn’t even see her,” he said. “It’s horrible.”
Cox said some parents hoped to meet with Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum to discuss what happened.
In a statement released Sunday night, Spelman said its commencement “is the largest and most complex event of the academic year.”
“There are guidelines and protocols in place as safety measures and for optimal event facilitation, including no access to the facility after a certain time, and no exit and re-entry,” the statement said.
While expressing regret that some guests missed the event, the college said the guidelines and protocols were communicated throughout the school year and the commencement was streamed live on Spelman’s website.