Commencement Plans for the ‘20 and ‘21 Classes Finalized

by, Nicole Fitzsimmons, Victor Franco & Maria Thomas, News Editor, Staff Writer & Managing Editor

Plans for commencement regarding the classes of 2020 and 2021 have been recently finalized. Upon months of addressing details, the commencement ceremonies for each class will vary, with most of the events being virtual.

An email sent out on March 16 stated that the 2021 commencement ceremony plans had “evolved” and the event would consist of “multiple in-person, school-based ceremonies for graduating undergraduate students over a period of three days.”

This came as a shock to the graduating students and alums, as President O’Donnell previously released an email on Feb. 22 stating that commencement ceremonies for both the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 would take place virtually.

While the 2021 diploma cover distribution ceremony will take place in person with small groups based on school, no guests will be permitted. Rather, families and friends will be able to watch the event virtually as it is live-streamed in real time. Details on where the ceremonies will be held will be released in the future.

According to the email we received as part of the Class of 2021, the administration is going to hold ceremonies for the separate schools over three days. The ceremony will be a diploma case distribution, and students will receive their diplomas at a later date.

These ceremonies will be live-streamed to family members, because we cannot welcome guests to campus,” president of the student body Shannon Gleba said.

The plans that have been evolved for the class of 2021 continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines to keep students safe.

“Currently, the maximum amount of people is, together, 150 for indoors. So, because of that, we can’t have the entire class together at once, so breaking it up into the schools, it’s just the natural way to do that,” executive director of Student Engagement, John Bennett, said. “And, for the most part, we really should be able to fit each school into one ceremony.”

Photo from the 2019 Manhattan College Undergraduate Graduation which reflects the kind of in-person ceremony current seniors wish to participate in. MANHATTAN.EDU / COURTESY

While following the safety guidelines, the college is also looking for ways to make the por tion of the in-person ceremony eventful. Trying to find ways to incorporate taking photos safely into the ceremony is something that administration is considering when looking over details.

“The planning is really detailed. That has been a big evolution in figuring out what we can do. So, in my opinion, there’s been no change in the planning. We’re just evolving it and making it the best we can for the students. For actually, both classes, quite frankly, the best we can,” Provost Steven Screiner said.

However, plans for the ceremony for the class of 2020 remain fully virtual. Provost Schreiner explains that this is because alum are no longer in the daily-tracking system, and cannot record their symptoms to administration.

“…There’s just no way to bring them back into the system and keep track of all of it. There’s just so many reasons. They’re not already in the bubble, if you will, and we can’t just turn a switch and make it happen,” Schreiner said. “We take it beyond our capability to make that happen.”

The announcement of a virtual commencement led to a rise of responses from the class of 2020, confused as to why both events cannot have in-person components.

A petition was posted from the class of 2020 regarding the issue. Kaylyn Atkins, former president of the student body for the class of 2020, took to Instagram to speak about the petition which gained some popularity amongst alum.

“I’m a strong believer that there’s strength in numbers and power in numbers, but not for this event. Maybe if we had more time, and had more of a push back, and maybe if other colleges were having an in-person ceremony, it would hold a lot more weight,” Atkins said. “But, I wanted to address every single decision that came out from my board and I, to say that it’s not gonna hold any weight whatsoever within administration, right, and you wouldn’t want anyone else to waste their time when we’re spending so much time, you know, moving forward and thinking about the next steps that we have to do in six weeks.”

Still, the 2020 student government assembly is meeting weekly with administration to address issues of graduation and to help finalize details while talking through plans.

The student government assembly for the class of 2020 is also working on setting up events that will allow for the alum to unite together after graduation to make up for some of their time that was lost. Currently, plans are in the works for an in-person formal that will reflect that of a traditional senior week celebration.

Class of ‘21 Students hope to have to same experiences as years before them.

These efforts are a response to the disappointment of the class of 2020 in missing out on a lot of their final year at Manhattan. Further, the initial response from the class of 2021was similar to that of the class of 2020. Students were confused as to why the plans seemed so rushed.

“I feel honestly, talking to my friends about it, we feel like they just announced it too quickly,” Molly Prior, senior communication major, said. “Like, we just don’t really know, there’s other schools that are a lot bigger than ours, like Boston University, and schools that are similar size that are trying to figure out ways to have graduation, and have said that they will have some form of an in-person graduation.”

Provost Schreiner notes that the college is trying their best to work with the students to make the experience as memorable as possible for each class, despite the circumstances surrounding their graduation. Surveys have gone out to the classof2021totryandironout the details to make the event go as smoothly as possible.

“Student Government has been working closely with the Administration, and have been participating in dialogues that give us an opportunity to advocate for the students,” Gleba said.

Despite circumstances being less than ideal, the plans for each commencement have finally begun to fall into place. The student government assembly and administration has been working to figure out how to make the experience valuable, yet safe for students and their families.

“These two classes are going to be in our hearts forever, as the ones who share the burden of the pandemic and what the pandemic has done for us,” Schreiner said. “So, we’re going to be working with them, for probably years to come to make sure that they understand, we’re not forgetting about them, we care a lot about them, and we want to make sure they understand how proud of them we are.”

Editor’s Note: Shannon Gleba is a member of The Quadrangle staff.