Through illicit ticket sales, some graduates made hundreds and allowed others to shirk the University’s two-guest rule –– creating an economic barrier for students’ families to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime event.
In late April, the University announced that its in-person commencement would provide two tickets to each graduate. The statement specified that the tickets would be non-transferable, despite the short notice for families potentially traveling to Ithaca from across the globe.
A number of graduates, however, paid little heed to this condition, taking to GroupMe, Reddit and word of mouth to peddle their unused commencement tickets to those with the hopes of allowing more friends and family members to watch as they received their diploma.
Those who sought out more tickets, including Cameron Dunbar ’21, reached out to their social circles and kept an eye on social media to find more.
Like many students, Dunbar’s family had already decided to come to Ithaca without plans to attend the commencement ceremony. Starting her search early and enlisting the help of friends allowed Dunbar to buy two tickets for her siblings for about 30 dollars each.
As the commencement approached, however, Dunbar saw prices skyrocket, with some sellers advertising tickets as high as $750 a ticket.
“It became pretty upsetting to people who didn’t have the money,” Dunbar said. “I know that I had a ceiling on what I was going to pay. So it became really frustrating to see that it became such an elitist thing.”
Dunbar noted that students with higher budgets could afford more tickets, putting a high price on the chance to celebrate with more of their loved ones. She expressed her wish that the University had provided accommodations for visiting family.
”It’s a pretty unfair process and a very frustrating process,” Dunbar said,
The last minute changes and logistical issues were especially challenging for low-income students. Miranda Laverty ’21 noticed how expensive tickets became through class group chats.
“I started seeing messages on the group chats, especially for first generation or low income students, about how unfair it is for those students because [tickets] were going for over $400,” Laverty said.
Aurora McKenzie ’21 was one of the earliest to request tickets on social media, and found two extra tickets for her siblings for less than $200. It was when she was helping a friend find tickets later in the process that she encountered the exorbitant prices.
“The people were actually trying to make a huge profit off of others,” McKenzie said. “I just got really upset and advocated for the people who are trying to just get their family members to see it.”