By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief
Photo by: Meghan Hudson/The Towerlight
After anxiety and uncertainty caused by delays in getting seniors their graduation regalia, Herff Jones, the company that supplies Towson University’s regalia, announced on Thursday that all remaining orders should be delivered by Saturday, May 21.
Sue Crumpton, senior director of corporate communications for Herff Jones, said in an email late Thursday that the recent COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai, China have caused the factories Herff Jones sources materials from to shut down. She said that they’ve experienced cargo delays as well.
“In short, materials we would typically expect to arrive in our facilities within four to five weeks are now taking as long as three months,” Crumpton wrote.
She also said the nationwide labor shortage is the reason for the delays and their executive team is currently assisting in the packing of shipping orders. According to Crumpton, all the remaining student orders will ship via air on Friday, May 20, 2022, and be delivered on Saturday, May 21, 2022.
The Towerlight spoke with five graduating seniors and the consensus among them has been a lack of communication from Herff Jones and anxiety about not getting their regalia on time. The interviews with the five TU students took place prior to Herff Jones answering emailed questions and telling The Towerlight the expected arrival date for regalia on May 19 at 4:11 p.m.
TU Senior Kobe Highter said he spent the last four years at TU working toward graduation day. Now, as the date of his graduation is less than a week away, he said the thought of not having his regalia is worrisome. He was selected to be the commencement speaker for the College of Fine Arts and Communications.
“It’s been a little stressful waiting for my cap and gown because I ordered it in April, and I was expecting to get it early May or just mid-May. But it’s less than 10 days before graduation,” Highter said. “So, I’m freaking out.”
For seniors to be eligible to partake in TU’s graduation ceremonies, they must register for commencement by purchasing their regalia. They must purchase their regalia by a set deadline, according to the TU website on commencement.
Seniors were sent instructions on how to order their cap and gowns in early March, according to emails obtained by The Towerlight. However, once ordered, they were not given a time frame on when their arrival would be.
Throughout the last two months, the seniors have periodically received emails from Herff Jones stating that their orders were delayed, but the company was working to fulfill them.
When Anna Clary received her cap and gown in the mail, she said her mom opened the box and was freaking out. She said she woke up to about 15 texts from her mother trying to figure out what happened.
Herff Jones sent her the right cap, tassel and stole, but the wrong gown. The TU senior received a gown for Pace University in New York City.
Clary said she tried emailing and calling the company but got no response. Similarly, Juliana Coppola also received a Pace University gown.
“The thing that bothered me the most is that everything else in the box was Towson,” Coppola said. “So it wasn’t just like I got the wrong box. I think that maybe would have made me feel better. Like ‘oh, they shipped the wrong box. That happens all the time.’ But everything else in the box was Towson.”
Both Clary and Coppola received new gowns from the UStore.
Echoing Crumpton, Matt Palmer, a spokesman for TU, said in a text message to The Towerlight that Herff Jones has assured the University that seniors will receive their regalia by their graduation dates.
According to Palmer, the company became the vendor for TU gowns in recent years but didn’t specify how long they’ve worked together.
The UStore released a statement on Wednesday via Instagram assuring that students will have their regalia by their graduation date. In the statement, they asserted that the store has a “contingency supply” of caps and gowns and that if a senior has yet to receive their gown by the day before their ceremony, to contact them.
In terms of how big the UStore’s supply of gowns is, Palmer said the store has 500 gowns in stock but has ordered 1000 more as a backup. He also said that over 3,500 undergraduate participants and nearly 500 graduate students are estimated to participate in the ceremonies this year.
In terms of the claims surrounding the company not responding to student calls or emails, Crumpton said it’s reflective of the mass volume of customers that have been trying to contact them, suggesting the scope of this issue.
Another similar theme among the seniors is how the lack of regalia has impeded their opportunity to take graduation pictures. Amanda Chiei had to cancel the appointment for her pictures due to not having the regalia and had to borrow a gown from an alumnus to make her rescheduled appointment. Chiei received her gown on Wednesday.
Additionally, Tiffany Buddy has yet to receive her cap and gown. She said she had to take her graduation pictures without the regalia on Wednesday.
“I mean, I’m obviously frustrated, but I really feel just powerless because, I mean, there’s not really much that I can do or any of us can do,” Buddy said. “They have our money and they have the product that I need. So I am at a loss here.”
Crumpton said if any student doesn’t receive their regalia by their ceremony date they will refund the full cost through their refund portal.
Chiei and Coppola said this situation could’ve possibly been avoided had they been able to order their regalia sooner sooner. Chiei said she doesn’t think TU is at fault in this situation.
“I just followed what the university said and it seems like Herff Jones is really overwhelmed right now,” Chiei said. “So I’m sure that’s something organizationally they should have been more prepared for.”
Buddy, however, feels the University could’ve been more communicative throughout this process. Additionally, while he’s upset about this situation, Highter said that the cap and gown situation is not fully representative of the time he, and his fellow students, spent at TU.
“But keep in mind, your special day is not determined based off of a cap and gown,” Highter said. “It’s not based off of the fact that you don’t have this one thing. It’s based off of your four years here, or however long you’ve been at Towson, and the work that you’ve done, or just the experiences that you’ve had. I just want people to focus more on the joy and the journey that you’ve gone through and not just this one hiccup in the road.”
The Towerlight reached out to the director of the UStore, Stacy Elofir, and Merchandiser & Events Coordinator Ruth Evelyn Schmidt for comment on this article but did not receive a response from either by the time of publication. The Towerlight was told by Palmer that Elofir was unable to take questions due to her involvement in assisting students with the regalia.
Further, officials at Herff Jones denied multiple requests by The Towerlight for a phone interview to answer further questions, citing the need for all their employees to be working on fulfilling their outstanding orders. They would only take additional questions via email. The interviews with the five TU students took place before Herff Jones answered emailed questions on May 19 at 4:11 p.m.
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