‘It’s not the same’: VCU graduates express disappointment regarding combined December ceremony

VCU will hold a commencement ceremony for all 2020 graduates in December. CT file photo

Katharine DeRosa, Contributing Writer

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise in Virginia, many VCU seniors are reeling from the cancellation of May’s commencement ceremony and wishing for another option from the university.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now infected more than 121,700 people and caused 2,053 deaths in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, VCU announced it will combine May and December commencement ceremonies in a statement sent to faculty, staff and students. 

First-generation student Jewelle Kamara, a senior biology major on the pre-med track, said that while she understood VCU’s decision, she wished VCU would consider holding a separate ceremony for May graduates.

GIF by Karly Anderson

“December graduation will be entirely too long, especially with the combination of all of humanities and sciences together they were planning to do for this May commencement,” Kamara said in a Twitter message.

Senior criminal justice major Sabrina Auandee said she felt a December graduation would be less special.

“For them to postpone it to winter, it’s not the same,” Auandee said. “I won’t be a student anymore.”

Auandee said she thought VCU made the decision too early as the situation is changing every day.

“I think that they made a very rash decision,” Auandee said.

VCU announced on its website that it will hold a virtual grad fair online where students can purchase academic regalia VCU class rings, diploma frames and more. Caps, gowns, hoods and tassels became available for purchase on March 24.

The website states that commencement announcements as well as assistance from Alumni Relations and Career Services will be available virtually.

Auandee said an on-campus grad fair is a social experience where friends can take pictures together before making their purchases and that a virtual version wouldn’t be the same.

“It just makes me mad,” said Auandee of the virtual grad fair.

Fashion merchandising major Ronnie Burley said she didn’t see the point in having graduates walk in the December ceremony.

“I think there could be some kind of virtual graduation we could do in May,” Burley said in a Twitter message.

Senior Matt Pittman said VCU’s rhetoric about postponing the graduation bothered him.

“It’s not really a postponement,” the broadcast journalism major said. “They’re just saying you can come to the December graduation.”

Pittman said students might be unable to return to Richmond for graduation in December due to jobs and graduate school.

“There’s no telling where I could be or where anyone else could be when December rolls around,” Pittman said.

VCU president Michael Rao called the graduation decision “necessary but disappointing” in a statement.

VCU spokesperson Mike Porter said the university is abiding by CDC regulations and social distancing recommendations to avoid rescheduling the ceremony more than once.

“Combining our May commencement with our December commencement was a difficult decision that we didn’t take lightly,” Porter said in an email.

A commencement ceremony for all 2020 graduates will be held on Dec. 12.


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