On Friday, Mar. 10, Subir Sahu, the Senior Vice President for Student Success, emailed a letter to the Drexel community revealing that there will not be a University-wide Commencement at Citizens Bank Park this year due to scheduling conflicts. Some students from the class of 2023 voiced their disappointment with this ending to their Drexel experience.
In 2016, Drexel held a University-wide Commencement at the park after not having a celebration with such a broad scope for decades. Since then, this celebratory event has taken place at Citizens Bank Park year after year, with the exception of the 2020 Commencement due to COVID-19.
Instead of the large ceremony, the university will continue to hold college-specific ceremonies from Wednesday, June 14 through Friday, June 16. According to the letter, these events will “include degree conferral with individual recognition of all graduates as they are called to the stage by name.”
Ceremonies will span several venues dependent on the college: the Academy of Music, the Mann Center and Mandell Theater in Drexel’s Creese Student Center. There will also be a new addition to the graduation festivities— a reception-style celebration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Tuesday, June 13. President John Fry will provide the annual President’s Toast to the graduating class on the Rocky Steps. The letter also said that there will be other traditions and ceremonies, but the specific details are vague at this moment.
Students have been anticipating Commencement updates for months, and the news of its cancellation quickly turned their excitement into frustration.
Senior graphic design major Yuki Mak shared the thoughts going through her head as she read the email: “How could they not give us a commencement? How could they be so careless with scheduling?”
Mak continued by explaining how she had been looking forward to Commencement as she missed out on the typical college experience due to COVID-19.
“There was so much I could’ve done those two years, so many memories I could’ve made. In that time, Commencement was the one thing I was looking forward to,” said Mak. “I told myself, ‘It’s difficult now but walking on that stadium is going to make it all worth it.’ And Drexel took that from me, from all of us. I waited 4 years for this and the one thing I held onto hope for was gone like that.”
Sharing similar feelings, Luke Leonetti, a senior film and television major, talked about how the announcement was disappointing after the less than ideal college experience.
“I’ve had to go to school as a freshman during COVID, I had Drexel in LA canceled, I had to go to ‘Zoom University’ for like a full straight year, and to find out my commencement ceremony is getting canceled, I’m just like, ‘oh that’s amazing,’” Leonetti said.
While Leonetti and Mak are still excited for their respective college-specific ceremonies to celebrate with peers in their majors, the smaller gathering of graduating seniors is not comparable to the expected university-wide celebration.
Mak emphasized how the cancellation of the commencement impacts plans she already had organized. “I had planned, very early on, to have my grandparents attend Commencement so they could see and celebrate this big milestone with me. So not having a Commencement, and not having my grandparents there is heartbreaking.”
Leonetti hopes the celebration at the art museum will be fun with a large amount of the graduating class present. Mak, however, does not think it will be a suitable replacement.
“John Fry’s annual President’s Toast is a Drexel tradition and changing the location of it this year does not make it more special. If anything, it makes it less special because they are using that as a replacement for Commencement, not as an addition for the graduating class,” Mak explained.
Mak shared that she and her friends believe that Drexel should continue to look for venues to host the University-wide Commencement, even if it is outside of Philadelphia or is held in New Jersey.
Mak elaborated by asking, “Parents were already planning on booking hotels and flights to attend the University-wide ceremony, what will the difference be if it were someplace else?”
Because of all of the obstacles the class of 2023 has faced, Leonetti feels like his experience has been a “‘We need to get them out of there,’ type moment because we have been dragging our feet with Drexel for so long.”
“Commencement is such a big part of a student’s college career… after all the hard work and time we’ve put into college these past 4 or 5 years, we deserve a celebration,” said Mak. “We deserve a chance to feel like we did it. We deserve to have a Commencement.”