Opinion: Texas State owes the Class of 2020 an in-person commencement

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Blake Wadley

Delilah Alvarado, Opinion Columnist

Over 6,000 Bobcats looked forward to the day they were supposed to receive their college degrees in person this summer despite the hardships COVID-19 brought to the university community.

However, on May 11, President Denise Trauth announced the cancellation of in-person commencement ceremonies for the spring and summer 2020 graduates, placing the final nail in the coffin.

Students were tasked with finishing their degrees during an unexpected pandemic after years of dedicating their lives to learning in the classroom. The class of 2020 is owed an actual commencement ceremony, not a virtual one.

Trauth said the decision to cancel in-person commencement was due to an inability to ensure safety and social distancing. But summer II and fall semester classes are expected to take place in person.

Canceling in-person commencement but not in-person learning contradicts Trauth’s statement about trying to protect students and staff. Opening up campus in the fall to allow face-to-face classes that can hold over 100 students in a single room cannot ensure safety protocols are followed either, even if students wear masks.

Trauth also said weather unpredictability was a determining factor for her final decision after considering Bobcat Stadium as an alternative location for the ceremony. But over 6,000 students, the equivalent of the graduated class, signed a petition for an in-person ceremony. Rain or shine, students do not seem to have an issue as long as they are able to celebrate.

A virtual commencement is not the same as actually being able to walk across the stage in front of many students, faculty and family to celebrate such an achievement.

In a poll conducted by the University of Portland, 96% of 2,285 responses said they would prefer commencement be postponed to a later date than transferred to a virtual ceremony. This survey easily translates to most graduating students who fulfilled their degree requirements; they want that moment to be made possible, not diminished.

Keeping the opportunity open allows students to still get the ceremony they deserve and actually wear the caps and gowns bought to celebrate the achievement.

While virtual ceremonies and celebrity congratulatory videos are entertaining, they do not serve as satisfactory replacements. Like the University of Texas at Austin graduates, Texas State graduates should at least be given the option to walk the following year instead of being denied the ceremony entirely.

Earning a diploma and getting to walk the stage is something students view as an important achievement before entering the professional workforce. Students pay thousands of dollars to attend college and receive their diplomas. Having a commencement ceremony is rightfully earned after choosing to be indebted to higher education.

If Texas State can continue in-person classes, then the graduating class should be able to have an actual commencement ceremony after all they have given to the university.

-Delilah Alvarado is a journalism senior


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