North Texas Daily

UNT graduation could be so much better

UNT graduation could be so much better

UNT graduation could be so much better
November 05
14:00 2020

If this semester hasn’t already been disappointing enough, UNT’s fall graduation announcement from earlier this month is just the last nail in the coffin of 2020.

On Oct. 13, the university announced limited in-person commencement ceremonies taking place in Apogee Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 22 with limited guest tickets as well as faculty and staff not receiving tickets, according to a report from the North Texas Daily. In December, during the usual weekend graduation, there will be two virtual commencement ceremonies to read out each graduate’s name via live stream.

Despite the limited in-person commencement, the announcement feels a bit late for fall graduates. The irony of this in-person commencement is found in the university’s reluctance to cancel the football season and provide students with more information earlier in the semester about graduation. Had this announcement come in September, I wouldn’t have been as frustrated, but for students like myself, whose families have been planning around this singular weekend since freshman year, it’s difficult to process the minimal sympathies from the university during the pandemic.

This isn’t to say the socially distant commencement ceremonies aren’t appreciated, because I’m sure there are plenty of graduates and families who will participate to have a semblance of normal graduation. On the other hand, the hypocrisy and dismal communication from the university to address graduation plans earlier and still allowing football games to continue feels like a bad joke

Don’t get me wrong: I am all for socially distant, safe graduation ceremonies. As a student employee, I have it permanently ingrained into my daily schedule to bring and wear my mask at all times, lather up on hand sanitizer, sing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” chorus in my head while washing my hands and to be mindful of germy surfaces.

The safety measures the school has implemented, including mandatory masks, hand sanitizing stations, floor stickers to maintain six feet apart and consistent cleaning schedules for classrooms, are all admirable and lessen my general anxiety about being in a potential Petri dish, but it doesn’t negate the sprinkle of hypocrisy the college has showered us in.

Like other universities, UNT went ahead with its football season and allowed fans to attend games at 25 percent capacity within Apogee. Despite new measures for the department and the games themselves, going to a college football game doesn’t seem like the safest place to enjoy the game at the moment. I mean, I know fans and alumni have televisions at home. Go watch the game from there without posing a public health hazard to yourself or other fans.

Similarly to North Texas fans, it seems like the athletic department has casually forgotten the parameters of how COVID-19 can spread, seeing as there’s been a recent uptick in positive cases. The athletic department reported three positive cases this week, one of which is a student-athlete, according to a report from the Denton Record-Chronicle. As of Monday, 35 members of the athletic department have recovered from COVID-19 after gradually bringing back staff and athletes to campus in June.

From a financial standpoint, I understand why the university allowed the season to continue. In 2019, they reported a $39.9 million budget for the athletic department and if the football season had been cut, the university could have faced an estimated $5 million loss, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

With this loss, student-athletes would have lost their athletic scholarships, and coaches and staff would have lost their jobs amid a devastating pandemic.

Yet, there is still a sour taste in my mouth thinking about how football was prioritized over graduates this fall semester.
It isn’t just football’s free pass that frustrates me during all of this – it’s the lateness and disappointing changes of the graduation announcement that takes the cake.

Universities across the country have also changed their graduation plans, with some scrapping them entirely and going for virtual commencements or having carefully planned socially distanced ceremonies. Texas A&M University will be holding 15 different ceremonies for Fall 2020 graduates spread out across five days, according to a report from the university. Texas A&M will also be holding 18 additional ceremonies next spring for May and August 2020 graduates whose commencements were postponed.

Other universities have simply not announced any updates to their fall 2020 commencement ceremonies at the moment, which, I suppose, gives UNT a leg up from being a complete disappointment in that department. It would have been nice to have received communication earlier so I could tell my parents and out-of-state family to cancel the hotel rooms and plans they had made to watch me walk across the stage rather than placate them every time I spoke to them.

Similarly to Texas A&M, the university could have spread out in-person ceremonies for each school over the course of a week, or even a month, to lessen the potential spread. They could have been smaller ceremonies, all socially distant of course, on Apogee or using one of the infamous white tents. There could have been a dozen different ways for graduating seniors to feel accomplished after the year we have all been through rather than throwing a Band-Aid on it and calling it a day.

Every graduate wants to celebrate their accomplishments during graduation. We all want to celebrate with our families and friends while reminiscing and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. But it doesn’t seem like 2020 graduates are going to get that.

I hope the class of 2021 gets the graduation they deserve and enjoys it to the fullest because I will be graduating in my parent’s living room while wearing pajamas, wondering how this year went all wrong.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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