Seniors have mixed feelings about graduating at USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center


Photo credit: Allison Joseph:USTA:US Open

Zoe Poulis, Features Editor

With last year’s return of an in-person graduation ceremony, the hope that students would get to walk across the stage at Radio City Music Hall was reignited. However, it was quickly extinguished when the University announced that the class of 2023’s commencement will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens for the second year in a row. 

This announcement has created quite a stir within the senior class, and though seniors have all undoubtedly been looking forward to this moment since grade school, there is a slight chance it has put a damper on things. After all, Radio City has a rich history, stunning interior and of course, is the home to the Rockettes. Not to mention a venue that the University has been advertising as its graduation site for several years.

Though the plans appear to be set in stone, students are expressing their frustration.

“I was livid because they essentially sold Pace to my freshman class as ‘Pace is so cool because you get to graduate at Radio City Music Hall.’ I understand [because of] the pandemic it was a lot of people graduating at once from previous years, but this year only the class of 2023 is graduating. It seems like a cop-out,” said University senior Esha Tottempudi, an Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications major. 

On the other hand, the majority of students that were asked for their thoughts had no idea this announcement was even made. I was met with a lot of “wait, where is it?” and “oh, I didn’t even know” responses. “I think it goes to show the lack of communication between Pace and its students,” noted senior English major Emma Sylvia. “It seems like a general apathy to a moment for hundreds of people that is genuinely special that gets reduced to something trivial.”

Communication has been a major complaint against the University since the start of COVID-19, but graduation announcements fanned this flame, especially with the class of 2022’s guest speaker being none other than New York City Mayor, Eric Adams. In fact, a small group of graduates protested during his speech by standing and turning their backs to his podium. This year, to avoid this type of controversy, the commencement announcement email came with a form for students to nominate their choice of keynote speaker. Though this might be a means to make amends for last year’s spectacle, at least the class of 2023 will get to have a say. 

Luckily, some students are finding the silver lining in all of this. 

“I believe that having our graduation at the tennis courts only enhances the students’ graduation experience. Getting the chance to have our whole families watch us receive our degrees after such hard work is extremely important,” Emma Brown, senior Behavioral Neuroscience major, said. “As someone with a nontraditional family (i.e. divorced parents, siblings, step-parents, step-siblings) Rockefeller is not an ideal location that allows this celebration to involve the people who helped us get to where we are. Having a support system with you every step of the way is part of our Pace Path, isn’t it?”

While many students are understandably disappointed, or simply just confused, having the ceremony at the Tennis Center definitely comes with its own set of positive attributes. For example, the US Open Tennis Championships have been held there since 1978. Not only that, but Flushing is home to the borough’s botanical gardens, a wide variety of multicultural shops and eats and the city’s largest Chinatown. If nothing else, think of it as a good opportunity to explore the neighborhood and enjoy the exceptional cuisine with your family after the ceremony.