In an email sent by President John A. Fry on May 22, it was essentially confirmed that the Commencement at Citizens Bank, pushed back to September due to the virus, is no longer happening. I have never greatly anticipated the ceremonial aspects that come with graduation, so I wasn’t upset by the initial postponement of commencement, and I’m not upset by its cancellation either. However, many students and their friends and families are upset and disappointed by this news.
Graduating college is one of the great milestones in life for some people, but it isn’t a great idea to throw caution to the wind amidst this pandemic in order to celebrate it. Commencement isn’t much more than a formality. It’s part of a longstanding tradition that happens every year, and at its core, it isn’t any different than celebrating your birthday with a gathering of family and friends or the new year with the dropping of the ball.
It is sad that we won’t be able to graduate in the traditional sense, but we’re now part of a very specific group of individuals, as not many people can say that they had their college graduation cancelled because of a virus. Perhaps it isn’t that desirable of a group to be a part of, but when we look back on it decades from now, the uniqueness of it is something that we might appreciate. We’re actively helping the world combat this virus by sacrificing our commencement, and if you look at it from that perspective, it really does lessen the initial feeling of disappointment.
In the email, President Fry also said that the 2020 graduates were welcome to attend both the commencement and the individual college and school ceremonies next year. It’s a nice sentiment and the only real accommodation that can be made for graduating students, but it will feel very strange to go back to Drexel to take part in the graduation ceremony after a year of being away.
I attended the graduation ceremony in 2018 because my brother was graduating from Drexel at the time, so I got some sense of the Drexel graduation experience. That is part of why I was less excited for my own, but having to attend it the year after I graduate makes it even less appealing. By then, all of the current graduating students will have moved on to building their careers or working their way through graduate school, so the undergraduate atmosphere, lifestyle and mindset will all have dissipated, and those three things are part of what makes graduation feel special.
Some students graduating this year will, of course, still want to experience graduation in some form, so for them, I am glad that President Fry decided to allow 2020 graduates to attend the 2021 graduation ceremony. The virtual university-wide celebration that will be happening on June 11 is a good way to maintain at least some semblance of celebration, but it alone will not satisfy those who want the full experience.
Given the nature of the coronavirus, cancelling the ceremony is the correct move and I’m glad that the University is committed to doing this instead of planning for a ceremony in the fall that was always unlikely from the start. Some students will be angry, as they may not see the long-term threat of the virus, but many will understand the reasoning behind the decision and will be supportive of it.
COVID-19 is forcing us to make the right decisions in all aspects of life, be it adhering to social distancing, keeping ourselves in quarantine or cancelling a graduation ceremony. The more right decisions we make, the sooner this whole thing will be over, and as much as I would probably enjoy my graduation ceremony, I’m more anxious for life to return to normal at this point.