Elon’s Student Government Association is making a change to the student commencement speaker qualifications. In previous years, the student speaker has always been the senior class president; however, SGA announced via an Instagram post that all seniors will have the chance to apply to speak at the 2024 graduation ceremony. 

The post from Feb. 2 laid out the following requirements: Applicant must be a graduating, full-time student who has been at Elon for at least five semesters; have a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher; must be in good standing with the university and may not be “a present or former SGA executive or senior class officer.”

This only includes the executive board that oversees all of SGA and not class representatives, except for seniors. A student who served in SGA prior to their senior year but is no longer involved, unless they were in an executive position, is eligible to apply. However, if underclassmen who currently serve roles in SGA decide to serve a role their senior year they will not be allowed to apply to be speaker. 

Both Hall and student body president Britt Mobley said the push for this decision came from above SGA. This means that there was no senate vote, unlike typical SGA proceedings. 

“We found that senior class presidents sometimes don't want to give it,” Mobley said. “Sometimes they want to and they aren't necessarily a great representation of the senior class, and then there's sometimes where they panic a little bit on graduation day.”

In the spring 2023 SGA election only 1,825 students voted, representing under 30% of the student body's opinion. 

The speaker – who will speak at both commencement ceremonies on May 24 – will be chosen by a committee chaired by senior class president Demetria Hall. In total there are six students on the committee with Hall, including executive SGA members Britt Mobley and Chloe Higgins. Hall said the remaining two senior students on the committee are not in SGA and were picked by SGA to represent the university. There are also faculty members, creating a total of 12 committee members. 

The SGA has decided not to release names of the faculty members who serve on the committee to try to keep students from heavily influencing them. 

Hall said she doesn't think bias will come into play when it comes to committee members interacting with students who they may have a relationship with.

Student body president Britt Mobley said the selection committee was appointed by him. SGA collaborated with the Provost’s office to select faculty members to serve on the committee. 

With applications having been due Feb. 15, the committee will spend a few weeks choosing 10 finalists to be voted on by seniors. The top three will then present their speeches to the committee, who will choose one person to recommend to Elon President Connie Book. 

The plans for this change began last year, according to Lily Kays ’23 – the former senior class president. But in the original discussion, Kays said they were under the impression that the senior class president could apply as well. 

“The one part of the decision I am not a huge fan of – and it was not a part of our original conversations that I was involved in – is the making it not allowed for any exec or senior class president,” Kays said.

Hall also thought – incorrectly so – that 2024 graduation would be the last year the class president would speak.

However, Hall said she's excited to not give a speech since she didn't get to experience a high school graduation because of COVID-19.

“I really want to have that moment to take it in with my classmates and everything,” Hall said.

Hall said she thinks seniors are excited about having the chance to speak. 

“I’m really excited to see how many people apply,” Hall said.

She also said she received numerous emails from friends and students she’d never met, asking questions about the application and telling her they applied. 

The committee’s first meeting will happen within the next couple weeks, Hall said. She's not sure exactly what the committee is looking for in a candidate yet, but she has an idea of what a good speech would sound like. 

“I think when it comes to commencement, you want to hear, you know, you persevere we conquered,” Hall said. “Highlighting the good through all the madness we experienced.”

Hall said she's excited to be able to hear from a variety of students. 

“I’m just looking forward to hearing everything,” Hall said.