Commencement ceremonies should not be held in 2020


Jason Halley

Courtesy of Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico

The amount of irrational anger and spread of misinformation toward Chico State’s decision to hold a virtual commencement makes me ashamed to be a Wildcat.

As a Class of 2020 senior,  I am frustrated that commencement for my graduating class will no longer be held in person. I empathize with those who have looked forward to commencement for years, especially first-generation students.

However, I understand this decision was made to maintain public health and save lives.

Following the announcement, students were quick to share their thoughts on social media, resulting in “Chico State” trending on Twitter.

I want to address the anger and entitlement that many Chico State students feel and reiterate that feelings of frustration, sadness and anger in these instances are valid. 

However, students fail to recognize that the global pandemic is not only impacting graduations, but the whole world and historically celebrated events, like the Olympics.

A petition made by Chico State student, Julia DeJesus, gained traction among Wildcats, asking President Gayle Hutchinson to host “a real ceremony in 2020 to distinguish and commemorate us for our hard work.”

“Due to the COVID-19 our world has entered uncertain times. In times like these, we gravitate to the little things we do have control over, or find peace in the simple pleasures we look forward to at the end of this. For the seniors in the graduating class of 2020 who have had the best days of their college experience taken away from them, we were looking forward to our commencement ceremony,” DeJesus’ petition said.

The petition is problematic and false because it implies that the university has control of when commencement can be held, when in fact there is not enough information about the pandemic to make a confident decision about a later date in 2020. 

When the shelter-in-place order is lifted, the transition to “normalcy” will be a slow process.

According to a group of Harvard disease researchers, social distancing may be necessary until 2022.

Zeke Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, says that concerts may not return until fall 2021.

If large gatherings are not a possibility in the coming years, what makes a commencement ceremony in 2020 the exception?

For students to promote a petition for a commencement ceremony in 2020 is dangerous, disregards health recommendations and puts lives at risk.

Additionally, the spread of misinformation has been rampant on social media.

Many students on Twitter expressed entitlement to a fee refund for graduation as they would not be attending a physical, unique 2020 commencement. 

Filing for graduation means you are applying to receive your physical diploma in the mail. Reserving a spot for commencement is merely applying to participate in the celebration, which requires no extra fee outside of the $68 paid to receive the diploma.

Commencement costs are paid for by separate student fees. Chico State stated on Twitter that commencement is included in a small part of the graduation fee, but all students would have to pay this regardless if they chose to walk in commencement or not.

It’s the same logic applied to a student paying fees for the WREC and not going to the gym. 

Demanding a graduation refund because of the ceremony cancellation is a misinformed opinion as the $68 covers the cost of mailing a diploma.

Chico State also clarified that the commencement portion of the fees will be used for the virtual commencement in May and the Spring 2021 commencement that this year’s seniors are invited to participate in. 

Whether students should have to pay a fee to file for graduation to receive their diploma, or what Chico State will use the commencement fund for are separate from the issue of holding an in-person commencement.

Despite this developing situation, Chico State has allowed partial and full refunds for regalia and keepsakes through regalia vendor, Herff Jones. 

While I am saddened to not be walking across the commencement stage in May, I understand the decision to cancel it. 

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AngelOrtegaNews.