Within hours of New York University’s March 28 announcement that Taylor Swift would be this year’s commencement speaker, senior Sean Nesmith started receiving direct messages asking for his price for a graduation ticket.
“I just got DMs from people who found me from an NYU Facebook group—which I thought those groups were closed,” said Nesmith, an international relations and public policy student. “People have been messaging me asking how much for me to sell my tickets.”
Swift will speak to the Class of 2022 at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, May 18, where she will receive a doctor of fine arts, honoris causa. She is one of six honorary degree recipients this year. Later that same day, the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will have a joint commencement at the stadium, where disability rights activist Judith Heumann will speak. The honorees were nominated by NYU community members—confidentially—and then vetted by university staff, reviewed by the University Senate and ultimately approved by NYU’s Board of Trustees, according to NYU spokesperson John Beckham.
“We’re tremendously proud of the six honorary degree recipients who have agreed to accept this honor and take part in our historic doubleheader commencements this year,” Beckman wrote in an email. “They collectively represent excellence in music, social justice advocacy, the advancement of interracial understanding, neuroscience, education, and American letters.”
But none has caused a greater stir than Swift. So far, Nesmith has received messages from six fans asking if he was selling his commencement tickets. Most told him to name his price; one fan offered $500 for a ticket.
“I’ve gotten long messages like ‘I hope this isn’t crazy. I would love to come.” Nesmith said. “Some messages are to the point, like ‘Are you giving your tickets away?”
Nesmith went semiviral on Twitter after he tweeted one of the messages he got from a Swift fan, who promised to bring a huge sign and megaphone to cheer him on during the ceremony if he sold them a ticket. On Reddit, users are also asking if any NYU seniors are selling tickets.
So far, Nesmith doesn’t know of any classmates who have actually sold their commencement tickets. For one thing, each 2022 graduate only gets two tickets this year. For another, NYU has made it clear that students caught selling tickets could face serious consequences.
The university’s website states that commencement tickets may not be used for advertising, promotion or other trade or commercial purposes. Students caught selling commencement tickets could face disciplinary sanctions, including a delay in receiving their degree or diploma.
Beckman said each commencement ticket clearly states that it should not be sold. The prohibition has been a long-standing policy at NYU’s all-university commencement, even before the event was held at Yankee Stadium.
What makes this year unusual is that many of the people clamoring to see Swift have no affiliation with NYU, Beckman said. In past years, students who sold their commencement tickets were selling them to other NYU students who wanted more family members to attend the ceremony, which the administration discourages. Beckman said the university prefers students give up their extra tickets so they can be distributed through a free lottery.
Swift, 32, is one of the world’s most successful pop stars, with a fan base ranging from preteen girls to grandparents. According to Audiense, about 40 percent of Swift’s audience is young adults aged 18 to 24, followed by adults between 25 and 34 and then teens from 13 to 17.
She has won 11 Grammy awards, and her online following is massive. Swift has more than 206 million Instagram followers, 90 million Twitter followers and 11 million TikTok followers. In 2021, she was the only woman on a list of the top 10 highest-paid musicians that year, among the ranks of Jay-Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stone reported. In 2018 she spent more than $50 million to buy a cobblestone block in Tribeca, not far from the NYU campus.
Still, it’s not like she’s giving a graduation concert in Yankee Stadium.
“Folks should know that Ms. Swift—whom we are very honored to have as one of our honorary degree recipients this year—will be speaking, not giving a performance,” Beckman wrote. “Of course, her fans are very avid, so I’m not sure even that awareness will curb their ardor.”
Nesmith is still trying to wrap his head around the public frenzy.
“It’s just crazy that there’s, at least from what I’ve seen in the DMs, a very big lack of awareness of the fact that we would be getting these tickets for our families,” Nesmith said. “But that being said, there is also a big international student population, where it is just purely unfeasible for family members to come, so students do genuinely have tickets to give away.”
Nesmith himself is excited to see Swift speak and believes she will leave a markedly different impression than previous NYU commencement speakers, such as former president Bill Clinton, Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
“Honestly, I really hope she feeds into her ’22’ song,” Nesmith said. “Because a lot of us will be 22 and it will be the Class of 2022. But I’m excited to hear her and get to say that Taylor Swift was my commencement speaker.”