Graduating seniors await commencement exercises

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Graduation is not only a ceremony, but a season of celebration. It is an important milestone in the lives of university scholars, especially for Florida A&M Rattlers and their loved ones who’ve supported them throughout their educational journey.

Yet, upcoming seniors wonder if this year will be a repeat of FAMU’s recent graduate Class of 2020. Will their long-awaited commencement ceremony be postponed or even cancelled?

While attending “Zoom University,” a tough question that students have been grappling with is what to do about graduation.

Twitter user @BeauxTieSwag tweeted, “Honestly, with colleges now having football games with fans, it shouldn’t be any excuses as to why students can’t have physical graduations.”

Virtual ceremonies have become a popular option for many universities in place of in-person celebration. Schools have begun to incorporate names or photos of graduating students into a slideshow template in hopes to offer individual recognition.

While this is certainly a great short-term option, current seniors have not been given a clear answer as to what will happen with their Spring graduation.

Some students question whether an in-person graduation is necessarily safe given the circumstances of the economy.

“I think graduation should be virtual because the cases are rising,” said Rylan Curtis, a senior Occupational Therapy student. “Although we have a vaccine, it still hasn’t made a significant impact on the cases that are continuing to increase every day.”

According to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), “there have been 25,549 positive cases of COVID-19 in Leon County.” Over the past week, the number of new cases has seen  a near 7% increase.

FAMU has yet to submit a survey asking graduates whether they’d want their ceremony conducted in-person or virtual this semester.

Dr. Genyne Boston, Vice Provost for the Division of Academic Affairs said,  “The Commencement Committee has not started meeting yet so any changes in the virtual format have not been determined.”

For soon-to-be college graduates, the pandemic is threatening to impact this coming of age milestone.

Many have dreamed of this significant accomplishment all their lives and it can be extremely damaging to the emotional well-being of the student if the experience is entirely cancelled.

“The ending result of the four years of my hard work felt unsatisfying,” said FAMU alumna Isis Climes. “It felt disappointing to know that after four years of hard work, the one thing I looked forward to was not something that I could achieve.”

Some students aren’t satisfied with virtual graduation ceremonies and want traditional in-person commencement exercises.

The university could implement a “Grad Walk” ceremony comparable to the program at the University of Central Florida.

Similar to UCF, students would be able to walk across the commencement stage with up to four loved ones or friends in attendance. The stage could be located in the Al Lawson Center, where their names would be read aloud and their family and friends can take video and pictures of the moment.

Hosting a graduation ceremony indoors, with up to thousands of participants, is dangerous and most likely not to happen. If the university could have the ceremony outside, while following strict CDC guidelines, an in-person commencement is still viable.

“The University will continue to exercise caution and act in the interest of protecting the campus community,” said Boston. “The health and safety of the FAMULY is the University’s top priority.”

Climes leaves graduating seniors with encouraging words, “Do not lose the faith and do not feel pressured to start your new life. Go out and explore. The world is your oyster. Take it by the hand.”