Armed with petition, Class of 2020 demands that University commit to postponing in-person commencement

Students+with+their+diplomas+during+commencement+in+2019.+This+spring%2C+seniors+are+petitioning+to+have+an+in-person+ceremony+at+a+later+date.

Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Students with their diplomas during commencement in 2019. This spring, seniors are petitioning to have an in-person ceremony at a later date.

Jason Beeferman, Reporter

Students of Northwestern’s Class of 2020 are demanding that the University make a commitment to hosting an in-person graduation ceremony at a later date, citing the University’s announcement to move 2020 commencement online as both “ambiguous” and “absurd.”

“It’s just kind of a slap in the face,” Weinberg senior Amy Szkorla said of the announcement.

Szkorla is one of the thousands who have signed a petition calling for the university to promise that the ceremony will be postponed.

Since being created by Communication senior Hannah Hakim on Wednesday, the petition has been circulating across Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. As of Thursday, it has amassed over 3,000 signatures.

In Wednesday’s announcement regarding the 2020 commencement ceremonies, University President Morton Schapiro said that the ceremony will be held virtually with “the expectation of holding a campus event to salute our graduates in the future.”

But students are asking for the University to make a firm commitment to holding a full-blown ceremony at a later date.

“We deserve more than a future ‘campus event saluting graduates.’ We deserve a promise for postponement,” Communication senior Mia Nevarez wrote, to the tune of 22 likes, in an online comment on the petition’s webpage.

Hakim, Szkorla and other seniors said they don’t think the administration’s response has been on par with those of its peer institutions.

Specifically, the petition references both Stanford University and Dartmouth College as having committed to postponing their commencements.

In fact, Dartmouth’s commencement page notes the school is “determined to include as many traditional elements as possible” in the postponed ceremony.

Meanwhile, students like Hakim remain critical of the specific wording of Schapiro’s announcement.

“After talking to my friends, we didn’t really think that meant a commencement, we thought that meant anything from a buffet at homecoming to an in-person commencement,” Hakim said. “What a lot of seniors want is at least a commitment that they will try everything in their power to have an in-person convention.”

A similar situation occurred at Tufts University last month. After students received an email saying that their commencement ceremony had been moved online, an online petition just like Hakim’s was created. The petition, titled “Reschedule Tufts University Commencement 2020,” garnered thousands of signatures.

Four days after the initial email, Tufts President Anthony Monaco reversed his decision.

“After reading and hearing your concerns and frustrations with our decision to hold a virtual Commencement, it is clear that we underestimated the importance of an on-campus celebration with your classmates and families,” Monaco said in an announcement.

Hakim is hoping her petition can nudge Northwestern administration into making a similar promise.

For now, the lack of a clear promise to postpone is especially impactful for students like Weinberg senior Jeanne Paulino.

In a Facebook post urging her friends to sign the petition, Paulino wrote, “As a first-generation, low-income college student… walking across the stage, among the other traditions, is symbolic of more than just my educational attainment; it’s symbolic of the obstacles my community and I have faced,” she said. “We deserve the traditions.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @jasonbeeferman

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