Vu believed that a more open forum is appropriate for an event in which the students are invested. She suggested the creation of an online area to post speaker ideas, or that the students on the committee would be more publicized so that the student body could give them input. She noted that in regards to such suggestions, Gilliam "didn't take them very well."
Eventually, the university responded and changed the process for next year. All students were able to apply this spring for the five additional positions on the 2010 commencement committee, although the Student Council president still picks from the applicants.
At Virginia Tech, the decision for the commencement speaker comes directly from the president's office.
Christina Todd, the Tech Class of 2009 Woman At Large, is the sole student representative on the commencement committee.
She attended the monthly committee meetings with representatives from all colleges and the graduate school, but in terms of the speaker for graduation, she said the planning was "all kind of headed out of the president's office," and that the decision to bring Gen.Lance Smith - Tech alumnus of the Pamplin College of Business - was not a responsibility of the committee.
The Class of 2009 student representatives will choose the student speakers among themselves. Two representatives speak at the fall commencement and two speak at the spring commencement. Todd spoke in the fall.
The process that the president's office chooses the speaker each year is "not as formal as you might think," said Mark Owczarski, university spokesman. "There's a lot of different ideas and candidates."
Todd said she wasn't aware of any sort of process similar to UVa's.
The commencement committee planned the logistics of commencement in terms of security and venues. Todd said that there weren't many issues that the committee had to vote on, but primarily figured out where each college would have its graduation.
Todd explained that the committee wanted to create more transparency about commencement and that every final decision was posted on the Web site as it developed.
Todd said she did not feel like the students were underrepresented on a panel that contained only one student member.
"If they have questions about student representation, I never felt like I couldn't say anything," Todd said.
However, she agreed that an increased student representation would be useful.
"Obviously the more input we could have the better," Todd said. "I don't know how the process would work to suggest that. I believe that if more students wanted to have more of a voice I'm sure that they would hear that."
Tech commencement is Friday, May 15.