Virtual graduation disappointing amid lessening restrictions

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out and restrictions continue to ease, some activities are returning to normal. Park University has announced that it plans to offer fully face-to-face classes next semester, so ultimately the prospect of a somewhat traditional semester seems to be possible. Many university organizations have started to host more events on campus, and spectators are now allowed at athletic events.

This is exciting news for students, as recent semesters have been very difficult with pandemic restrictions. However, as a senior, I can’t help but feel like an afterthought.

I have worked very hard for my degree. I have worked a full-time job, held internships and a work study all while attending Park as a full-time student. I fought hard for the opportunity to walk across a stage in a room full of my family and peers, to relish the success of all my hard work. But that is not my reality. Instead of a traditional graduation ceremony, I get yet another virtual event.

I still had to pay for a cap and gown I will never wear. I will see pictures from friends at other universities as they join their peers in person for a graduation ceremony. Other universities like the University of Missouri, a school with a much larger student body than Park, are holding an in-person commencement ceremony for their 2021 graduating class.

According to their website, they plan to implement social distancing, require face masks and are using a specific ticketing system to limit interaction between groups of attendees. If they could do it for their students, why couldn’t Park do the same?

On one hand, it’s not a surprise. The pandemic has forced a lot of changes to traditions, and virtual formats have created incredible opportunities for events to still take place. I am thankful that a graduation event was offered at all, as I know the new format took a lot of hard work to bring an ounce of normalcy for seniors.

But it is frustrating to know that the university is making such a push to offer a normal semester in just a couple of months from now but seemingly made no effort to offer a face-to-face graduation ceremony. Park makes it feel as though the seniors were put on the back burner, and it is just an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Congratulations to the graduating class of May 2021.