The UConn class of 2020 have gone through great struggles to get to where they are now. They entered college during a brutal national election, where many of them chose between two of the most unpopular candidates in recorded history, after which the chaos didn’t end. Instead, cancel culture as well as the alt-right grew in American colleges. In 2017, Lucian Wintrich, a conservative commentator, gave a controversial speech where a protestor stole his speech, following which Wintrich tried to get it back. Wintrich was arrested, but later charges were dropped against him and the protestor was charged instead. Later, in 2019, Turning Point held Campus Clash, a much more peaceful event that still divided many students due to its criticism of orthodox college ideology.
Along with the political turmoil, the class of 2020 experienced UConn becoming a much more elite school academically, as we have improved on many measures. This meant that UConn likely became more challenging over the time the class of 2020 spent here. They have benefited from this increase in academics and created great knowledge, including Wanjiku Gatheru, our first Rhodes Scholar, the 23 University Scholars and everyone who graduated. Finally, they finished their senior year online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of everything the class of 2020 accomplished, they deserve a ceremony to celebrate their progress over the last four years. Unfortunately the pandemic has made the ceremony unsafe because of capacity, but once the current students leave, I propose that UConn have a Senior Week from Dec. 4-13. This will give time for the administration to prepare after Thanksgiving Break, and it would be only a quarter of the standard UConn population, meaning that it would be less of a transmission risk than the current semester is. Also, graduation ceremonies could be spread out from Dec. 7-11 to allow for more social distancing.
Another potential problem is students traveling from infected states and countries, which could be solved by quarantining the campus, as well as having remote reception and testing centers across the country as well as at Bradley, Logan and NY airports. UConn can use its bus fleet to transport graduates from these locations to UConn and back for departure. As for families, who will only be traveling to the university one day for a ceremony, the university could map out paths from various areas of the country to and from UConn, with food and beverage pickup sites along the way, with these families getting exemptions from CT travel restrictions provided they use a GPS given to them at locations across the country.
Despite all these precautions I have proposed, some students and families may still be infected. That is why we can partner with the CDC to have an opt-in experimental vaccination with placebo, run according to all local, state and federal ethics standards. Students traveling to Senior Week will have the option to join a study where half of them will be injected with an experimental vaccine. We know some students will have risky gatherings, so this will be a useful opportunity to gauge vaccine effectiveness.
Finally, every UConn graduate deserves a commencement, so those who can’t make 2020 should be invited to the first commencement post-pandemic.