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Huber: CSU should’ve let seniors provide input on commencement

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

There are moments in a person’s life that they will remember forever: the first day of school, high school graduation, their wedding day or the days their children are born. For most people, one of those moments is the day they graduate college. But the reality for Colorado State University’s spring graduating class of 2020 is that many won’t have the opportunity to participate in a commencement ceremony.

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With the increased threat of COVID-19, universities across the country have either postponed graduation, moved the ceremony online or canceled commencement altogether. CSU, in turn, has opted to postpone the spring commencement ceremony until December. According to the University’s COVID-19 response website, “The difficult decision … (was made) to allow all our graduates to share their achievements with their families in person.”

This announcement was sent out via email on March 19, roughly two months before ceremonies were set to be held and after many students had ordered their regalia. CSU has since presented the options to transfer regalia orders to December or get a full refund.

This news was a devastating blow for graduating seniors. Not only has COVID-19 robbed us of the remainder of the semester with our friends and classmates, but many students will be unable to return for commencement.

While I agree with the necessity for the delay, I disagree with the way that CSU handled it — and the way that most other universities have handled it — by just announcing the news to students.

In contrast, Drew University, a private school in New Jersey, offered seniors the chance to vote “in a university survey offering either a deferred or virtual graduation.” Their ceremony is now tentatively planned for the end of the summer, based on a majority preference of the in-person option.

Students at CSU weren’t able to voice their feelings about commencement before the change was made, but now, we have to deal with the repercussions.

Personally, my plans for graduation have changed. My mom, dad, grandparents and aunt all had tickets to fly out for my graduation in May; it would’ve been my extended family’s first time visiting me in Colorado. 

As for attending commencement in December, who knows? Like many students, I’m moving out of state to start working, and I’d imagine that I would rather take the trip home for the holidays than return to Fort Collins for graduation.

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My roommate and good friend, Kendall LaBonde, is also having doubts regarding participation in the December ceremony. Like me, LaBonde is also moving away for work. How does she plan to celebrate graduation?

“I’m gonna put on my high school cap and gown and go out and shake hands with the mailman when he or she delivers my diploma,” LaBonde joked.

She is paying for her regalia so that she will have a tassel — something to remember her four years of hard work by. LaBonde will have her sister, who lives in Fort Collins, pick up her cap and gown when it arrives. Whether or not she will actually attend the ceremony is uncertain.

We have lost more than just the spring ceremony — hours of class, weekends with friends, the company of roommates — and there’s really no way to make up for that time.”

LaBonde and I aren’t the only ones with this problem. The timing of the delayed ceremony and the uncertain future make it difficult to shift graduation plans. 

Every graduating senior I’ve talked to, regardless of their commencement plans, feels the same way: disappointed. We have lost more than just the spring ceremony — hours of class, weekends with friends, the company of roommates — and there’s really no way to make up for that time.

For those able to return in December, commencement will not only be a celebration, but also a welcome reunion. This commencement will serve as more than just a celebration of years of hard work, good memories and new beginnings. 

Now more than ever, the day we graduate college should be one we remember forever. That is why CSU should’ve listened to or even asked for our opinions before changing commencement plans.

As it stands now, commencement in December will be a reunion that only some are able to return for. I may not be here, and while that is a reality regardless of when the ceremony’s date is, I wish my voice had been heard before the decision was made.

So, CSU, here’s my retrospective vote: commencement should have been postponed but not until the end of the year. Obviously safety is more valuable than walking across a stage in front of my friends and family. As much as I want to celebrate my graduation in the way I’d planned to, it’s not feasible right now. 

Ideally, however, commencement would take place at the end of the summer. This would be a better time because many graduates won’t yet be working or won’t have to choose between graduation and going home for Christmas. Hopefully I’ll be here for the ceremony, but I might just have to pop a bottle of champagne from my apartment in Utah while FaceTiming my friends.

So, to CSU, if this happens again, please listen to students. To my classmates whom I may never see again: congratulations!

Allie Huber can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @a11iehuber.

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