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“In-person ceremonies should still be on the table”: online graduation announcement leaves some students feeling disappointed

“In-person ceremonies should still be on the table”: online graduation announcement leaves some students feeling disappointed

“In-person ceremonies should still be on the table”: online graduation announcement leaves some students feeling disappointed
July 31
12:00 2020

The university announced it will hold commencement ceremonies for spring and summer 2020 graduates online from Aug. 18 through Aug. 20, a decision some recent graduates said they found disappointing.

President Neal Smatresk announced the virtual commencement in an email to recent graduates on July 17.

“Our hope was that we would join together for in-person ceremonies in August to celebrate you and your fellow graduates from this spring and summer,” President Smatresk said in the announcement. “But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, it is clear that we still cannot safely provide that kind of event.”

Undergraduate ceremonies will be held from the 18 of August through the 20. Doctoral and master’s ceremonies will be held on Aug. 21. The exact times for each college can be found on the university’s commencement webpage.

Each graduating student’s name, degree and Latin honors will appear on the screen and be read aloud. There will be an American Sign Language interpreter present for each speaker. There will not be a need to submit photos for graduation and old student ID photos will not be displayed.

A recording of commencement will be made available online on the commencement website for students, friends and family who miss the live ceremony.

The commencement FAQ cites a survey sent out to graduating students on May 29 as a key force behind the decision to hold online commencement ceremonies.

The survey gave students a total of four options they could rank in order of preference: join Fall 2020 in-person commencement, join Spring 2021 in-person commencement, a virtual commencement in August or have no official ceremony.

“All Spring and Summer 2020 graduates were asked to participate in a UNT experience survey in early June,” the Office of the Registrar said in the FAQ. “The survey, which was completed by over 1,200 graduates, included questions about commencement options. The results of the survey, including a strong preference to celebrate sooner rather than later, were integral to the decision to move forward with virtual August ceremonies.”

The respondents make up 20 percent of the roughly 6,000 graduating students. Several graduating students who spoke with the Daily about the online commencement said that they were unhappy with the way in which the survey was sent out to students.

Media arts senior Rawburt Martinez said he never received the survey.

“The only communication I received was that they were still making a decision and that everything would be online,” Martinez said. “For months, we never heard anything and that was the most frustrating part about it.”

Graduating math major Tania Alemán said she did receive the survey and filled it out.

“I remember calling my cousin and telling her to fill out the survey,” Alemán said. “She said she never received the survey and she asked other friends — all business majors — if they had received it and they all said no, so I forwarded the email to her.”

“I think in-person ceremonies should still be on the table for when this whole thing calms down, even if we have to wait until next summer,” Alemán said.

Business and Marketing major Joselyn Flores also graduated in the spring. Flores told the Daily that she felt disappointed with the way the University handled communication with graduating students.

“If they would have communicated how they discussed this, I probably would have felt more at peace,” Flores said.

When asked what her ideal solution from the school would have looked like, Flores said that she would have appreciated a faster response time.

“They simply could have stated that for now, we will do a virtual commencement and those who want to walk would have the possibility to do so with the fall 2020 class or the spring 2021 class,” Flores said.

The commencement FAQ also addresses the possibility of allowing a future in-person ceremony.

“While we would have liked to invite all of our May and August 2020 graduates to come back to campus and participate in face-to-face ceremonies when they are next held, health and safety conditions are currently unpredictable, if not discouraging,” the Office of the Registrar said.

The university has not yet specified a  platform or outlet to hold the ceremony on or how family and friends will be able to attend or what the ceremony will look like. This information will be added to commencement.unt.edu at an unknown date.

Courtesy UNT News

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Matthew Lippi

Matthew Lippi

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