I hope we get to have an in-person graduation

By Leanne Vastbinder, Opinion and Online Editor

My life as a Jet has been filled with so many memories and adventures. I’ve taken many classes, written heaps of essays, had insightful discussions, and also cried a bucket load of tears from feeling stressed at various times.

Through all of this, I had a dream that one day I would walk across a stage in a cap and gown and receive the diploma that says, “I did it!”

Graduations were the assumed norm until the arrival of a global pandemic in the spring of 2020. Due to health considerations, most colleges and universities cancelled their regular graduation plans.

Newman had an online livestream where faculty members read the names of each of the graduates. As someone planning to graduate from the Class of 2021, though, I vote for a return to an in-person graduation. I have spent the last four years away from home and family anticipating the actual graduation ceremony.

I want to be careful here to emphasize that I don’t want to throw caution and safety to the wind in saying this. I appreciate the way Newman has protected the health of the faculty and students by modifying in person classes this year.

I wouldn’t want them to let go of all protocol to hold a “normal” graduation. However, I believe they can continue to follow those guidelines and prepare for an in-person graduation.

It would not be an anomaly. Other schools like Wichita State University are offering several smaller graduation ceremonies. Students will RSVP for the ceremony they choose to attend. Unfortunately, they are not offering live viewing for family and friends, only a webcast stream.

Another school, Kean University in New Jersey, will move forward with their second year of socially distanced, sized-down outdoor graduation ceremonies. They plan to use caution and follow CDC guidelines. Kean University exemplifies balancing safety and tradition for students and their families.

How could this be done at Newman? We could follow CDC guidelines and plan socially distanced, sized-down ceremonies. We could require masks for all attendees and take temperatures at the door. If there are too many people to seat, maybe we could split up the graduates and have two ceremonies. Whatever the case, I believe there is a way to balance safety and community so that graduates and their families could gather for a celebration that can’t be replicated via livestream.

Graduations are a long standing academic tradition and are deeply important to students and those connected with them. Family and friends travel many miles to gather for the moment of seeing their graduate cross the finish line of their collegiate journey. This event celebrates the perseverance, dreams, finances, and lots of hard work by the graduates and their supportive community.

I truly hope that Newman decides to have an in-person graduation ceremony. I understand that there are many variables that they must account for when considering this decision, probably some I haven’t even thought of.

But I do believe that we know more and have better guidelines in place than we did in May 2020 when we didn’t have any idea what to do. Because of that, I truly believe that we could find a way to have an in-person commencement ceremony and still prioritize the safety and health of Newman graduates and their families. I believe that there is a way, and for the sake of the graduates and families of the class of 2021, I hope they find it.

PHOTO: Courtesy Photo,