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SU needs a better graduation experience during the pandemic

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Dr. Charles Wight addressing graduates during 2020's online commencement ceremonies

The experience of graduating is something college students around the world look forward to. It is a pivotal moment in the modern education experience that serves as either a steppingstone towards future educational goals or a final accomplishment before entering a long-awaited career.

The crowds and thunderous applause awaiting the Spring and Fall classes of 2020 for Salisbury University were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring’s commencement ceremonies were postponed to December in hopes of the virus subsiding to allow for a conventional ceremony at the Civic Center by then.

Instead, the pandemic continued into the winter of 2020, preventing events involving large gatherings from occurring. Colleges across the United States adapted their ceremonies in various ways throughout 2020.

According to The Verge, institutions held virtual alternatives and encouraged students to make their own unique celebration video clips. These would be presented during the live-streamed graduation in alphabetical order, mimicking the presentation of degrees for each individual student.

Even TikTok challenges found their way alongside speeches from deans and school presidents at these ceremonies.

While not nearly as emotional or ceremonial as previous graduations, participants had a moment of recognition within the limitations of the pandemic shared with family and friends before embarking on life’s next journey.

However, what Salisbury University offered students in December 2020 fell short in one key area.

Following a compilation of recorded speeches from administration and Governor Larry Hogan in a virtual commencement for undergraduates, viewers were directed to a link that honored graduates with a list of personalized slides on SU's commencement website.

This attempt failed to provide students a singular moment of recognition. Even a ten second, pre-recorded message to thank loved ones could help students feel the pride from their names being called and receiving degrees on stage.

Furthermore, an expansive list of names on a webpage isolates students who supported themselves in absence of supporting friends or family due to varying circumstance.

Without a crowd of encouragement to walk in front of proudly, these graduates become another name on a list. There must be sincere representation for all who finish their journey at Salisbury University.

My disappointment stems not only from its “presentation” of graduates, but also that these ceremonies were delayed from their scheduled spring date. There was ample time since spring to allow for the planning of a more substantial experience for graduates, and yet what was presented was subpar.

On Jan. 25, Maryland entered into Phase 1C of the state's vaccination distribution plan, as announced by Governor Hogan. Those at SU now eligible to receive the vaccine include essential workers such as food-service and housing staff.

However, it is unknown when Phase 2 will begin. If it were to be enacted during the Spring 2021 Semester, it would only include those on SU’s campus aged 16-64 who are at an increased risk of COVID-19.

Despite promises of accelerated vaccine distribution, the chances of large gathering events including graduation are looking slim.

With uncertainty still on the horizon, I am asking SU’s administration to provide a better experience for the class of 2021. Students who have dedicated their academic abilities and financial resources to Salisbury University deserve more than a website listing.



Editorial editor

Image from Salisbury University Press Relations.

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