Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many accommodations to make campus a safer learning environment for students and faculty. These changes in university life have now affected the commencement ceremonies, considered by many students to be one of the most important days in one’s college career.
At the end of each semester, PSU graduates have gathered to celebrate their hard work and dedication to their education. Usually, there are four ceremonies each May. This year, however, while adhering to social-distancing guidelines and COVID-19 precautions, there will be eight ceremonies over the course of two days.
Each graduate will receive four tickets for guests to meet the occupancy limits for the Plaster Center and the Weede Center. Ceremonies will be in continual movement with no seating for guests and will be livestreamed for those who cannot be in attendance. Guests will stay with their graduate as a group until they depart to receive their diploma.
Many students were not pleased with the decision announced last Tuesday.
“I now have to pick and choose family members to be present and my parents are trying to rearrange their hotel plans as they were already booked,” said Megan Woodfield, graduate student in psychology. “All the language being used is how quickly in and out it will be. This isn’t a drive through experience where speed matters. It’s supposed to be a celebration of a milestone moment in our lives and the culmination of what we have been working towards through our educational careers.”
Much like the November ceremonies, everyone must abide by the campus wide mask policy, the only exception being when receiving diplomas and taking professional photos on stage.
Howard Smith, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, said that the committee had to move the ceremonies because there wasn’t enough space nor employees available to hold the event on the original date.
“It was a combination of events,” Smith said. “Basically, you had events going on at the stadium, events going on at the Bicknell, events going on out at the Rec Center and athletic fields, and so really, we were overbooked…We recognized that we needed to do something and the weekend we ended up moving it to only had softball games.”
Although there has been a lot of negative feedback on the adjustments made, other students applaud Pittsburg State for doing the best they can during tough times.
Nicholas DellaCamera, senior in strategic communications, approves of this safer alternative as opposed to a traditional commencement ceremony.
“My family and friends expected to not know the outcomes given the times we are living in,” DellaCamera said. “It’s kind of known that COVID was going to impact the ceremony in some way. I mean, most of my classes are online and when I do attend in person instruction, both the students and faculty respect masks and social distancing. After three semesters of learning during COVID, a quick exit is appreciated.”
Smith has said the committee will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation throughout the rest of the semester.
“Just as conditions have improved, they could worsen, so we will not make any additional adjustments until closer to the commencement dates,” Smith said.
According to smith, there are several factors that affect the decision making.
“We file our safety plans for large groups with the county to determine our capacities,” Smith said. “We will be considering guest numbers and ceremonial changes, such as hooding graduate students later to ensure we adhere to county and state health guidelines in place at that time. Hopefully the conditions will stay favorable as the semester progresses and we will be able to make some adjustments and file a new plan.”
PSU, like many other universities across the country, is trying to stay flexible by doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of students and faculty during this pandemic.
“As a whole, I think we’ve done a very good job adjusting to it,” Smith explains. “I wish I could sit here and say that nothing else occurs, but I think we’ll be ready if it does.”
Spring commencement ceremonies will take place the weekend before finals week. Ceremonies for students in the College of Technology and the College of Arts and Sciences will be held on Friday, April 30. Ceremonies for students of the College of Education and the College of Business will be on Saturday, May 1.