Rush Holt Speech and Union Protest Among Highlights of Rutgers SEBS Graduation Ceremony

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–On May 19, thousands of students, faculty, family members, and friends gathered near Passion Puddle on a beautiful day to celebrate the 2014 Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Science convocation.

The event was a "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" event for the families and friends of the graduates.

Rush Holt was the keynote speaker that day, addressing the students with his take on the Dr. Seuss title, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

Holt changed the phrase to "Oh, the Places We'll Go!" telling the graduating class that they will continue to work together in their fields as they originally "came together deliberately at Rutgers" to learn more about the world they live in through science.

Students specializing in biology, chemistry, landscape architechture, environmental studies, natural resources, animal science, marine science, meteorology, geology, and other fields were among those sitting together under the blue sky to celebrate their accomplishments that day.

During his speech, Holt compared the scientific method to the democratic process. He said to the students that a scientist, like with democracy, must act fair and responsible in taking all competing theories into account before making a statement about the world.

Many students that day received awards and recognition for their high marks and involvement in outside clubs and organizations such as Reach Out and Read (Rutgers ROR), Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH), and student government.

When the ceremony ended, the SEBS graduates turned their tassels to the left. Some threw their caps in the air as Pharell's latest hit "Happy" blasted through the event's sound system for all to hear.

The SEBS convocation was just one of the many Rutgers University convocations taking place that week, and like the main ceremony at Rutgesr Stadium, it was not without controversy.

One of the 2014 graduates Christine O'Connell, a mother of five who recently lost her full-time position at Rutgers, according to NorthJersey.com's Hannan Adely.

O'Connell graduated with pride alongside her 21-year old son on Monday.

However, she had recently been let go from her position, funded by a grant from the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

She says that her position at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County, assisting struggling families with information on proper nutrition, was simply eliminated with no further explanation from her employers.

"Union members believe she was a target of retaliation because of her work as a union organizer on campus," wrote Adley.

"They held protest signs at the graduation and have an online petition calling for her reinstatement."

And the protests appear to have worked.  The 300+ individuals who signed the petition to SEBS Dean Larry Katz received an email on May 23 indicated O'Connell has been hired to a similar position based in Essex County.

"She'll take on new duties and even get a raise," read the announcement.