UC Davis moves spring 2023 commencement to Sacramento following June’s heat debacle

Following a botched commencement ceremony in June that had to be called off mid-ceremony due to extreme heat, UC Davis will hold its spring 2023 undergraduate commencement celebration indoors at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, university officials confirmed.

Chancellor Gary S. May first announced the event’s planned move to Sacramento in a Nov. 18 letter to the campus community, writing that the decision was made in accordance with a survey sent to students following the June ceremony debacle.

May said in last month’s letter that the university was “negotiating to secure Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center” as the venue for spring 2023 commencement.

UC Davis has since signed a contract with Golden 1 Center for that purpose, university spokeswoman Julia Ann Easley confirmed Tuesday in an emailed response to The Sacramento Bee, making the move to the NBA arena official.

The spring 2023 undergraduate commencement is scheduled for June 16 to June 18 of next year. Additional details about the ceremony are pending.

Fall graduation on campus this weekend

The university’s fall 2022 undergraduate ceremonies will be held this Saturday on the UC Davis campus at 10 a.m., followed by a spring 2022 makeup ceremony at 2 p.m., both at the University Credit Union Center.

Graduate student commencement ceremonies will continue to be held on-campus next year, according to the university website.

The decision to move undergraduate commencement off-campus and out of the college town is controversial, dealing an economic blow to Davis businesses that typically benefit from a major influx of visitors come graduation season. Local business leaders expressed concerns during a meeting last week between city leaders and the Davis Downtown Business Association, the Davis Enterprise newspaper reported.

Students also expressed some concerns in the survey cited by May: 46% of respondents said parking costs and availability in downtown Sacramento were a concern, while 20% were concerned about transportation between Davis and Sacramento.

Sacramento State also holds its spring commencement ceremonies at Golden 1 Center. The university has not yet announced dates for next year’s commencement. Sacramento State held its 2022 spring commencement in late May.

What happened at UC Davis’ spring 2022 ceremony?

The first day of the UC Davis spring 2022 commencement ceremony, held June 10 on the university’s football field, was abruptly canceled before more than half of the day’s roughly 2,300 undergraduate students had a chance to cross the stage.

Paramedics responded to nearly three dozen heat-related episodes before noon, and at least six people were transported to hospitals, university officials said in statements at the time.

Temperatures in Davis soared to the mid-90s late that morning, and downtown Sacramento went on to reach 104 degrees by afternoon, according to National Weather Service records.

The June 10 ceremony had inadequate shade for graduating students, organizers ran low on drinking water and temperatures ratcheted up as the proceedings ran behind schedule, May acknowledged in a letter the following week.

Following the incident, the university sent a survey to approximately 7,500 students to gather information on their preferences for next year’s spring commencement event, the results of which were published by the university last month.

Six guests instead of four preferred by students

Of 833 students who responded, 53% said they would prefer the ceremonies be moved to a venue in Sacramento, an option that would allow students to invite six guests; 35% preferred the event to be held in the University Credit Union Center, which would limit each graduating student to four guests. The remaining 11% of respondents said they had no strong preference.

Up through 2019, UC Davis held seven undergraduate ceremonies each year — one for each college, all indoors.

May, in a 2019 chancellor’s announcement titled “Commencement Consolidation in 2020,” said the university would combine the seven colleges’ ceremonies down into three, each celebrating about 2,500 graduating students.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, commencement at UC Davis was held virtually in 2020 and in smaller pods in 2021, delaying the consolidation plan to this year.

To squeeze down from seven ceremonies to three required a different venue, which in June ended up being the campus football stadium.

The initial 2019 announcement on consolidated ceremonies had also mentioned Golden 1 Center as an option.