Graduating seniors fight for December commencement

By: Anna Hovet, Assistant Editor
Illustration by Meghan Hudson/ The Towerlight

After Towson University (TU) announced on Sept. 23 that there will not be a winter commencement ceremony, one TU student created a petition to fight the decision. 

Nursing student Grace Wysong said she created the petition, which currently has over 500 signatures, because it didn’t feel right to not speak up about the decision. 

“I have worked so hard to graduate early and I feel like it is the only time we really get the acknowledgement for the hard work we have done,” Wysong said. “Especially since we had to adapt to everything during COVID-19, it made it even harder for us to be successful but we figured it out and remained persistent.”

Wysong expressed that she was surprised the decision was announced months before the ceremony would even occur, especially since TU already decided it would still be hosting full-capacity indoor basketball games during the winter sports season. 

According to an email sent by TU’s Office of the Provost, the winter ceremony will be postponed and held in conjunction with Spring 2022 commencement ceremonies. 

“Following student feedback and an overwhelmingly successful in-person commencement celebration this past spring, providing an authentic commencement celebration worthy of our students’ achievement is a priority for TU,” Provost Melanie Perreault said in an email to campus. “Holding a larger commencement celebration in Spring 2022 allows for that, and for those family members who wish to be present for this momentous occasion to be able to do so while abiding by best practices for health and safety.”

Psychology major Samantha Lemay finds it hard to understand why TU is hosting full-capacity sports events and fully in-person classes, but not winter commencement. 

“We have worked tremendously hard through the past years, powering through a pandemic, hardships, changes,” Lemay said. “We are in class every day. It’s fine if we have to wear masks, but we deserve a commencement and I think by not providing their students with this momentous occasion is doing nothing but a disservice to their future alumni.”

Nursing student Mary-Alyce Carlyle said she will not plan to attend the postponed winter commencement because she lives three hours away from TU. 

“In May, I will have a full-time job, and there is no guarantee myself and my family will be able to get off of work to come back and attend in the Spring,” Carlyle said. “If I am able, I may attend, but at that point, it feels as if the excitement of the accomplishment has worn off.”

Fellow nursing student Marisa Mirani explained that in addition to potentially not being able to make it to the ceremony in May ‘22, the decision was very upsetting to hear. 

“The nursing program has been very difficult and it is quite upsetting that we have not been able to celebrate any of our accomplishments throughout the program,” Mirani said. “There has been plenty of time for the administration to brainstorm ways to safely hold a ceremony, and it feels as if they have just given up and not tried.”

Some students understand the decision, despite the disappointment. Graduate student Jada Bruce explained how her concerns over COVID-19 safety outweigh her desire for an in-person commencement. 

“At first I was upset because this is my second degree from Towson and I still haven’t walked a stage, since Spring 2020 graduation was canceled,” Bruce said. “But after a while, I was okay with it because I understand COVID-19 is still such an unknown situation, but I’m still hopeful they will find a way to celebrate us.” 

Bruce said that even a virtual commencement would allow for December graduates to be celebrated.

Health Education and Promotion student Arda Bell said that although she has plans to travel outside Md. and won’t know where she is come May, she doubts the decision from TU will change.

“Though recognizing and celebrating my accomplishments would have been nice, I don’t think the decision will change my relationship with TU,” Bell said. “I think one day can’t make me think differently about the last four years.” 

“The best outcome would be them reevaluating their decision and working with the students to come up with a safe way to carry out an in-person commencement ceremony this December,” Wysong said. “At the very least I’d like them to acknowledge our point of view and come up with an alternative commencement ceremony.”

Wysong plans to send TU administration the petition along with a letter explaining her point of view. 

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