By Amanda Morgan Fann, Asst. Photo Editor–
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a pandemic, an attacker of small-businesses and a fatal illness for many folks across the nation. This virus has and will continue to change the way we function, make decisions and live for months, and for UTC seniors, months were all we had left until the day we have been working for was to arrive: graduation day.
I am not knocking the severity of the national crisis we are undergoing; I am thankful for my health and the immediate action my school has taken to ensure the safety of their students and the faculty and staff, however, I am frustrated and saddened by the uncertainty of graduation.
As a result of COVID-19, the UTC Spring 2020 commencement ceremony has been cancelled with subsequent decisions still pending. Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jerold Hale and the Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Dr. Yancy Freeman sent out a “Voice Your Opinion: May 2020 Commencement Survey” on March 17th to all graduating seniors registered to walk this semester.
The survey offered three alternative options in substitute of the typical ceremony: “1) Attend a commencement ceremony in person in August 2020 (contingent on the national COVID-19 status), 2) Attend the December 2020 or the May 2021 commencement ceremony in person. You would choose which ceremony best fits your needs, 3) View a virtual commencement ceremony to be live streamed in May 2020. Your name will be read as part of the virtual ceremony.” Participating students had to rank the options from 1 to 3 (1 being the top choice and 3 being the last). The administrators requested to have the surveys returned by this Friday and a decision about commencement is to be sent out in the next couple weeks.
While I genuinely appreciate the university trying to give students a say in this decision, I feel two more options should have been added to this survey: a “both virtual and in person” option and an “additional suggestion” option. When I took the survey, I had a lot more input to add than just a “1,2 and 3.” I do not like the idea of our May 2020 class simply sliding into another graduating class’s ceremony because for one, this will cause an already crowded McKenzie Arena to be a hectic mass with double the amount of friends and family members packed in there, and also, we deserve a separate ceremony for our unique class, especially after the end of our senior year being taken from us.
As for the “both” option— a virtual ceremony should not be exceptionally financially straining, so we should have some kind of virtual ceremony to celebrate and mark what should been our day, and still have an in-person ceremony in August (or September depending on the state of the country at that time); it is the best that can be done to try to rectify a bad situation. If UTC goes ahead and sets aside two dates now, it will give students and their families plenty of time to plan. I want to walk across that stage beside my colleagues with smiles on our faces and my camera around my neck, capturing the moment we have waited for: the moment that special piece of paper is placed in our hands. And I do not stand alone in this desire.