Graduation to move to Maryland Live! in May


AACC will hold graduation at Maryland Live! Casino & Hotel in Arundel Mills on May 23.

Sarah Noble, Daily Editor

AACC will hold its 57th commencement on May 23 at Maryland Live! Casino & Hotel in Arundel Mills.

Some AACC professors and students said they don’t approve.

“[The casino is] not an educational facility,” English professor Suzanne Spoor said. “If our mission is about learning … does going to a casino undermine that mission?”

She added: “A college graduation at a casino detracts from the seriousness of the degree students receive and hurts the credibility of the college as a degree-granting institution.”

Lydia Outland, a second-year transfer studies student, said having graduation “at a casino is sleazy. What does that mean for people who have issues with gambling and alcohol to be in a casino? It doesn’t feel right to me.”

Anne Arundel County in November 2017 approved a tax break for a new hotel and event center that Live! opened last spring. As part of the deal, Live! must allow Anne Arundel County high schools and the community college to hold commencement ceremonies there.

The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro has traditionally hosted the county’s high school graduations.

However, starting in 2020, high school graduates will receive their diplomas at Live!

Dan Baum, AACC’s executive director of strategic communications, said the community college is “getting the opportunity early because the venue has been completed sooner than [Live!] anticipated.”

Because of the 4,000-seat event center’s limited size, AACC will split its graduation into three separate events for graduates in Liberal Arts; Science and Technology, and Mathematics; and Health Sciences, Business and Law, and Continuing Education and Workforce Development.

Students may attend whichever ceremony they choose, although administrators are encouraging them to participate in the one that coincides with their area of study.

Science professor Anthony Santorelli said individual ceremonies will allow more time for student recognition, but added, “Having an off-campus graduation does detract from the ‘community feel’ to the ceremony.”

Spoor  said she objects to the societal dangers of a casino.

“[When a casino is built] it’s documented that social workers come flooding in because people become addicted to gambling,” she said. “It’s a major issue in our society. I don’t think having a graduation of an institution of higher learning at a casino is a good pairing. That’s entertainment and this is education.”

Still, Baum said, “The thing to keep in mind is that it’s an event center. We’re not bringing them to a casino.”