by Jilleen Barrett & Caroline McCarthy, Asst. A&E Editor & Asst. Sports Editor
Commencement for the Manhattan College class of 2020 has officially been postponed to an unconfirmed date due to COVID-19 concerns. This news was announced in an email from President Brennan O’Donnell to the student body on April 3.
Although this is disheartening for the graduating class, President O’Donnell communicated that the seniors would be honored in some way– just not on May 15.
“All commencement events that normally would have taken place in May will be rescheduled to this future date: Spring Honors Convocation, Baccalaureate Mass, and Commencement ceremonies for graduate students and SCPS, and of course for the great class of 2020,” he stated. “In addition, Student Life is working with Student Government on how best to conduct the social events that are such an important part of the celebrations.”
Kaylyn Atkins, the student body president, didn’t make any final decisions about the fate of commencement but tried to participate in the conversation about this complicated situation as a voice for the entire senior class.
“I know that a lot of seniors were opposed to having any type of virtual commencement,” she said. “What I can say is that there will be a virtual celebration or video from the Office of Marketing and Communication, but that’s just to honor us because we also didn’t want May 15 to just go by as a regular day.”
“I’d rather have graduation like a year late rather than have a virtual commencement,” says Carly Brownell, a graduating International and Peace Studies Major. “I think it’s nice that they’re not automatically moving to a virtual graduation like some places are.”
Atkins confirmed that there was not a commencement speaker scheduled for the original day of the ceremony. The speaker was supposed to be chosen by President O’Donnell and a team of administrators. Although Atkins has inquired about the speaker since her first semester as student body president, she confirmed that there wasn’t anyone finalized by the time they were forced to postpone.
“The main reason that [President O’Donnell] gave me was that there were complex schedules… but I don’t know exactly why [the people they reached out to] couldn’t come,” Atkins said.
Commencement being postponed poses questions of availability and ability for graduating seniors to return to campus – specifically those who do not live locally. With the added financial pressure of returning to MC with family members and themselves, students have shown concern and hope for commencement to be just as meaningful and special as the original would have been in May.
Brownell commented on the delayed commencement, worried about the students whom it would affect.
“I know people who are in New York now that are planning to move away for different things, says Brownell, “So I’m not sure how [a later commencement] would really work for them.”
Brownell lives in St. Petersburg, Florida and had the original intent of residing in New York City after graduation, but because of the virus will most likely have to return home.
“Nobody’s hiring right now. You know, you can send in your application for jobs posted 30 days ago, but there’s just nothing new,” said Brownell, “So that’s kinda scary.”
Throughout the crisis, the Career Center has stayed very helpful and positive, constantly reminding students to reach out for assistance in finding a job during these trying times.
“Sharon D’Amelia sends us an email every single week saying stuff like ‘Hey guys don’t give up hope! Remember I’m still available and feel free to set up a meeting,’” says Brownell. “[S]he’s been so helpful. I love the career center.”
The commencement ceremony would have been a high-risk gathering considering the social distancing policies that have been put into effect in New York City. Atkins noted that there are about 750 seniors, and with their guests there could have been roughly 2,800 people packed into Draddy Gymnasium.
Due to the coronavirus, it is inarguably unsafe for commencement to be held on its scheduled date. However, Manhattan College has ensured that the graduating class will have their moment, together, to celebrate their years as Manhattan College Jaspers.