Seniors express mixed feelings about graduation after SUNY Plattsburgh announced plans for an in-person commencement ceremony April 9. Student reactions ranged from questioning the logic behind not allowing parents; to being grateful for the opportunity to walk across the stage at all.
An SUNY Plattsburgh press release outlined the plans for smaller, in-person commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 15 in the Field House. Graduates will be given an event time according to their major. Individual ceremonies are tentatively scheduled for 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. An additional 6 p.m. online ceremony will be held for those unable to attend in person.
According to the press release, the ceremonies “will include elements of the college’s traditional commencement events” and “will be available by livestream for all to view via the college’s website.” A recording of the ceremonies will also be available online afterwards.
Numerous seniors were anxious they would have to graduate college via Zoom, their fears intensified by news that other universities in New York State had opted for a fully online ceremony.
“Literally all I wanted was a chance to walk across the stage in person,” Senior Chrysa Rabideau said. “That was the bare minimum for me. I knew we wouldn’t have a totally traditional ceremony because of the circumstances, but the fact that we can at least graduate in person is enough.”
In accordance with state and county health department rules, in-person attendance at the commencement ceremonies will be limited to the Class of 2021 graduating seniors and graduate students. All attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. Campus facilities will not be open to guests or spectators. Safety guidelines such as masks and social distancing will be maintained as well.
“As a first-generation student, I know the milestone that graduation represents,” President Alexander Enyedi said in the press release. “I want to acknowledge how challenging this year has been for everyone. Each of us, students, faculty and staff have navigated the pandemic and done so much under the most challenging conditions.
This college’s resilience and drive has shown what Cardinal Strong means and now is the time to celebrate.”
Cardinal Points reached out to President Enyedi for further comment but did not receive a response.
However, not everyone has begun celebrating. Some students have questioned and voiced frustrations regarding the limitations surrounding the ceremony.
“There are some aspects of the plans that just don’t make sense or haven’t been explained very well,” Senior Audra St. Onge said. “Most people have access to vaccines now. Parents can show a negative COVID test before attending the ceremony too. The fall semester is starting just a few months after graduation and that’s supposed to be fully in-person, so I don’t see why parents aren’t allowed at the ceremony. People can go to football games, but can’t go to graduation?”
When asked whether she believes the Student Association should take the initiative to advocate for the lifting or reconsideration of these limitations, St. Onge said it should definitely take measures to determine how the student body as a whole feels about these limitations.
“If enough people believe these restrictions should be reconsidered, the SA should advocate for us,” St. Onge said. “Maybe there should be a survey sent out to students to see how people feel. I don’t think the ceremony plans should be finalized before that.”
Though other students have also voiced their disappointment along similar lines, some have viewed these restrictions in a more sympathetic light.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t bring two parents for sure, but I think we should still be grateful,” Senior Michelle Simmons said. “The numbers [surrounding COVID-19 cases] aren’t really great right now, so we can’t be expecting too much.”
Others also pointed out logistical difficulties that would emerge if these restrictions were to be lifted.
“Some people don’t realize that if every student brings two parents each, that’s a whole lot of people. And we can’t really handle that right now,” Senior Jazz Roberts said. “I really wish my mom could see me graduate, but I completely understand why these restrictions are necessary right now. I had hoped things would be much more sorted out in terms of the pandemic right now, but clearly that hasn’t happened.”
Despite the disappointment of not being able to have their parents attend, some have chosen to focus on the bright side given the complicated circumstances at hand.
“Yeah, my mom was not pleased when she heard the news,” Rabideau said, laughing light-heartedly. “But I told her that at least I get to actually walk across the stage, and I think she understands. I think that’s the best way to look at this situation.”