When asked what an in-person commencement would mean to him, graduating senior and civil engineering major Ryan West only needed one word to respond. “Everything.”
West’s wish of walking across the stage, shared amongst the other hundreds of students expected to graduate this Fall, may be granted, as Southern University and A & M College has not ruled out celebrating commencement face-to-face, as scheduled for Friday, December 18, 2020.
“Some people give up a lot in life for a gain in education,” said graduating senior and accounting major Asia Smith. “Physically walking across the stage after a long, [hard] fought journey would feel so exhilarating.”
On October 16, SGA President Chandler Vidrine took to Twitter to announce the agreement made with the administration, along with updating students on the university’s efforts. He posted, “Please be patient as we work diligently to finalize logistics, as it will have some restrictions to comply with campus health guidelines.” To date, Southern could join other schools across the state including Louisiana Tech Univ., Southeastern Univ., and the Univ. of Louisiana at Lafayette in promoting formalized plans for the in-person event considering challenges posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Faculty and staff are just as motivated for an in-person commencement as the student body. A committee including Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Bijoy Sahoo is expected to meet this week to continue deliberations.
Three options were described from Sahoo as being on the table. The first option would consist of the university celebrating commencement on Pete Richardson Field at A.W. Mumford Stadium, maintaining Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and local compliance with regards to large gatherings. The second option would have each academic college prepare their own smaller version of commencement, with students still able to participate in-person, albeit in smaller capacities depending on the varying sizes and access of spaces and rooms available. The last alternative is the university streaming a virtual commencement, as it did for the Spring and Summer graduates on August 7.
Some students and faculty members are skeptical of the change to an in-person event due to the lack of information being shared this late in the semester, but Vidrine reassured students as recently as Monday that the agreement has been made. Outside of falling temperatures, the two main objections for an outdoor commencement are the potential for inclement weather or an increase in positive COVID cases on campus and/or in the surrounding area. If successful, Sahoo didn’t rule out giving Spring and Summer 2020 graduates a separate opportunity to physically participate in commencement.
“Everything I’ve done throughout my matriculation in college was to one day walk across that stage,” said West, a Baton Rouge native. “…an in-person graduation would mean everything to me and my parents.”
Students can check their emails or continue following The Southern Digest for the latest updates.