On March 17, via a university-wide email, University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas confirmed the cancellation of May commencement exercises in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. At the time, he apologetically told UConn’s Class of 2020 that “the university is committed to finding the right time and place to invite you to come together and return here again to be appropriately honored and recognized, as you deserve to be.”
And indeed this promise has been fulfilled. On March 27, the UConn Commencement Office announced that a virtual commencement ceremony will take place on May 9, with an in-person ceremony during the weekend of Oct. 9-11. Although this solution is less than ideal, it’s the best one that UConn could provide given the circumstances, and it shouldn’t preclude anyone from marking the occasion in their own way.
To the class of 2020: Truly there’s no sense in railing against a decision that UConn was largely forced into making. Is this an awfully abrupt way for you to end not only your college days, but also 18-19 total years’ worth of education? Absolutely! And how devastating this must be for first-generation college students, for whom it’d be especially meaningful to walk down the aisle in your respective caps and gowns. Incredibly so, surely.
Of course, this is operating under the assumption that several of you and your families will be unable or unmotivated to attend October’s in-person ceremony, what with potentially being situated far away from Connecticut or generally transitioning to the next stage in your lives. No matter the degree of importance you and your family might’ve placed on a grand in-person ceremony, you should remember that UConn is obligated to abide by statewide and federal social distancing guidelines for the sake of public health. Thus, maintaining the status quo with commencement plans would’ve been a recipe for disaster.
Despite the delay of an in-person commencement ceremony, you should take great pride in your accomplishments. After all, you’ll still graduate and receive your diploma, unless you flunk out of your online classes or otherwise fail to satisfy your credit requirements. At least you’ll be alive and well enough to commemorate the privilege that’s been your college experience (yes, it’s strictly a privilege according to America’s current infrastructure).
You may be abandoning your fondest on-campus experiences and closest friends earlier than you anticipated, but that shouldn’t embitter you toward your overall time at UConn or prevent you from maintaining remote contact with those about whom you care most. Despite your temptation to sigh or even laugh at the prospect of your UPS delivery person handing you your diploma (which, news flash, would happen any other year anyway!) or of hearing your name and Latin Honors spoken on a Zoom call (or whatever virtual meeting application UConn implements) while lying bedridden in sweats, all’s not lost.
Ultimately, there are plenty of ways to commemorate your achievements. For one, you could surround yourself with close friends and family for an intimate celebration at the appropriate time. If you’re looking for something on a larger scale, you could organize your own event and invite tons of people to it! Noted student activist Emily O’Hara’s creation of a Facebook group, which has amassed more than 900 members as of this writing, for this purpose is a particularly inspiring testament to the positive impact of student power. Or of course, UConn’s virtual and in-person ceremonies might suffice for you. Whatever the case may be, we can all agree that an online graduation ceremony merely commences the festivities for UConn’s Class of 2020.
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