Colleges postpone commencement ceremonies and turn to virtual recognition
By Camille Barnett, Gentilly Messenger
With spring graduation ceremonies canceled or postponed, many class of 2020 graduates are disappointed that their official graduation day won’t be recognized the way they had anticipated.
“That walk across a stage was earned through four (in my case, five) years of hard work and panic attacks — just to be taken away within a blink of an eye,” said Loyola University senior Christian Willbern in an Uptown Messenger column.
While few deny the public health necessity of closing colleges, it was heart-rendering for many seniors to be abruptly banished from their campuses in the final months of their final year.
Universities are finding ways to commemorate the day, often through virtual ceremonies to be followed by a delayed ceremony.
Dillard University also will host a virtual degree conferral this month on May 9 with a postponed commencement date of Dec. 12.
Southern University at New Orleans will honor its 2020 spring graduates on Saturday, May 16, through a virtual graduation ceremony. A postponed in-person graduation is tentatively scheduled for mid-December.
“Commencements are the ‘super bowl’ of any higher education institution where we see graduates walk across the stage and hear the cheers of their loved ones and friends,” said James H. Ammons Jr., SUNO’s interim chancello in a written statement. “We will not let COVID-19 stop us from celebrating our graduates’ Big Day.”
The University of New Orleans announced in March that it would postpone the spring 2020 commencement ceremony, originally scheduled for May 15. President John Nicklow acknowledged the class’ resiliency in a video message congratulating the graduates.
“If a global pandemic didn’t stand between you and your degree, you are truly unstoppable,” he told the class of 2020. He added that this graduating class is a special class to him, as many of the graduates started their UNO journey the same year that he became university president, and that he understands the circumstances at hand are disappointing.
“Im going to make you a promise,” he said in another video message. “We will celebrate you and those in your life that helped you get to this point. And I’m not quite sure when that will happen or what that will look like, but over the next few months, those plans will come together.”
No plans from the university were mentioned regarding a virtual ceremony or celebration.
Tulane University’s virtual ceremony marking the conferment of degrees to the class of 2020 will take place May 16.
The “TUgether: Connecting the Class of 2020” event will be live-streamed and will begin with a slideshow and musical performance by Dr. Michael White, with a main program following; President Michael Andrew Fitts will share a special message with the class of 2020.
Loyola University will hold two virtual ceremonies on May 9 at the same times of their originally scheduled ceremonies: one at 10 a.m. for undergraduates and graduate students and one at 5 p.m. for their College of Law. Loyola plans to hold formal 2020 commencement ceremonies on the weekend of August 7-8 on campus.
“We are moving forward on those plans, but are closely monitoring recommendations from health and government officials about social distancing,” university officials said in a written statement. “The health and safety of our graduates and their families is a top priority.”
Xavier University will honor its spring 2020 graduates with a virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 23. On May 22, the university will also host a virtual College of Pharmacy Hooding and Honors Ceremony along with a Baccalaurate Mass and an Honors and Awards Convocation.
Delgado Community College also canceled its May commencement ceremony, and decided on an Aug. 4 date to reschedule it.
Officials said that they are still in the process of coming up with a way to recognize graduates and their families while observing social distancing this month, possibly with online tools to host a virtual commencement ceremony.
Reporter Camille Barnett can be reached at email@example.com.