By Farin Cloyd, Staff Writer-

Nearing the end of the Spring semester, many graduating seniors look forward to walking out of their last final exam, their last class of their undergraduate degree, and walking across the stage to receive their diploma. Many of these last moments were stripped from the graduating class of 2020 in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga administration decided to close campus on March 11 and transfer all courses to online format until March 30, hopeful that campus would be safe to reopen at that time. Shortly after, the administration decided to suspend all face-to-face class meetings through the end of the spring semester, as well as cancelling the graduation commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 1 and 2. 

Steven Angle, the chancellor of UTC, released a statement regarding the graduation ceremonies on March 16.

“We are currently exploring options to safely celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates,” said Angle.

As expected, many graduating seniors were outraged by this. UTC administration suggested making the ceremonies virtual or potentially rescheduling them for a later date. A survey was later sent out to the graduates to see what accommodations would be preferred by the students.

“Cancellation was a poor choice of words,” said Chancellor Angle. “A ceremony in August/September is an option we are considering.  We are planning to have our normal ceremony in December 2020 and this will be another option for students and their families.”

Chancellor Angle reported that more information will be released soon regarding the plans for graduation commencement ceremonies. He feels strongly that every graduate’s achievements should be honored and celebrated.

“Commencement is the best day in the life of a university,” said Angle. “Our graduates have earned their degrees and deserve a warm handshake, a pat on the back and a huge ‘well done!’  We will find something that does this.”

Student Government Association President, Stan Settles, released a statement to boost morale among graduating seniors as well. As a senior himself, he understands first-hand how devastating the situation is.

“While there is much that we do not know, one thing has not changed: we are Mocs,” said Settles. “Now more than ever, this is an opportunity for us to come together: be good neighbors, check on others, and wash our hands. When Mocs come together, we can accomplish anything. That will never change.”

Updated plans for graduation commencement ceremonies will be released to students by Chancellor Angle in the coming weeks by email. To stay updated, continue checking the UTC website and UTC administered emails.

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