Seniors react to commencement ceremony cancellation

Corryn Brock, News Editor

Eastern President David Glassman announced the cancellation of the May commencement ceremony, an announcement that has left many seniors filled with a variety of emotions.

Many seniors have expressed feelings of sadness, anger and disappointment in the news they will not be able to walk the stage come May.

For most seniors, they will be missing out on a final class with their favorite professor, the last meeting of an RSO, their last Greek Week, their last Spring Concert and many more of the final events that come with graduating.

Student Body President Carson Gordon had a message for her fellow seniors who will be graduating in May:

“Although I understand it’s a heartbreaking and life-altering experience that we’re going through, I want everyone to keep in mind that these decisions are made in order to protect us and those we care about. I want to encourage all of our seniors to lean upon each other, to keep in contact with their friends and peers, and to finish up this semester as strongly as possible,” Gordon said. “Social distancing makes it easy to feel alone, but I want them to know that they aren’t, and if they need anyone to talk to, I’m always here for them. We’ll all get through this together.”

Many students said they understood the decision, but are still disappointed they will not be able to celebrate their accomplishments as they planned to.

Gordon said she feels as though she’s missing out on “making the memories and having a true senior year experience … Not getting to have that closure and not getting to tell everyone goodbye in the way I planned to is difficult to come to terms with. We’re missing out on what should be the best semester of our college lives.”

Celine Crow, a senior management major, said she is upset she will not be able to show what she accomplished during her four years while crossing the stage.

“I understand why they’re doing it,” Crow said. “But it’s extremely disappointing to have worked four years towards the moment of walking across that stage with all the tassels and stoles I’ve gained from my involvement on campus only to have it be taken away without an alternate plan in place … I was looking most forward to wearing all my cords and stoles to commemorate my involvement and achievements.”

However, Crow said that while she was hoping to enjoy the remainder of her college career this ending will be memorable.

Ivan Perkins, a senior corporate communication major, said he was upset for the students who believe that graduating is more than just a degree.

“For a lot of people, graduation is more than just a diploma. It’s that feeling of walking across that stage, that feeling of having your moment,” Perkins said. “A lot of students are first-generation graduates and they won’t get to experience their moment in the limelight.”

Perkins said he is worried about students’ motivation with the remainder of the semester, especially seniors.

“There’s a bunch of moving pieces and factors and I’m just curious to see how the school is going to react and respond and what their position on the next steps to take will be for completing the semester,” Perkins said.

Macey McKee, a senior elementary education major, said she is feeling shocked.

“I am feeling super disappointed and sad,” McKee said. “I have worked hard for this moment for years, always imaging walking across the stage being the final goal! It’s just a shock when that’s taken away from you.”

She said the worst part of the cancellation was “the graduates not getting the recognition they’ve been working towards for years.”

As an education major, McKee was finishing her student teaching requirement before she walked the stage.

She said being away from her students has left her  “very sad.”

“I’m missing them a lot and it stinks that this is taking away from my 15-week training before getting my real teaching job,” McKee said.

Dalton Davison, a senior computer and information technology major, said he was mostly concerned about his mother’s reaction when he heard the news.

“It was sad to hear and I kind of panicked slightly when I found out the news. I was more upset for my family than myself because I’m first generation of graduating and this is a huge event for my mother,” Davison said. “She was looking forward to it.”

He said his mother was disappointed when he told her he would not be participating in a commencement ceremony this semester.

“She was shocked and frustrated. Not at the Board of Trustees or Dr. Glassman but by the fact she couldn’t take pictures or see me walk across the stage,” Davison said. “My mother is sentimental when it comes to big events like this, weirdly enough. She is still happy that I graduate technically and can start a new chapter in my life as well.”

Kristen Brian, a senior English major, said she is feeling disappointed, shocked and anxious about the situation.

“I mean, I understand that this had to happen and that some things have to change in order for this virus to be contained. I almost expected it. But, I was still shocked. The initial reactions of disappointment, anxiety, and shock ended up morphing into shame,” Brian said. “Like, there’s more important matters in the world right now and I’m upset over graduation being canceled? But, I’m just letting myself process the news. It’s better on my mental health that I process it and accept it than trying to reject it or refuse to believe it.”

Brian said she wishes the end to her college career was not so abrupt.

“I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to share my special day with the people who helped me most through my college life,” Brian said. “It’ll just… end.”

Gordon said she can understand other students’ frustrations as she will not be able to have the typical celebration for her undergraduate years.

“I’m disappointed,” Gordon said. “I completely understand that the health of our campus community comes first, but this is what students spend their whole college careers working towards … Graduation, for me, was the final way to celebrate and reflect upon my undergraduate EIU experience. I was really looking forward to making that one final memory with my classmates and peers.”

A frustration Gordon said she felt was finding out the commencement ceremony was canceled through social media rather than through the university.

She said she felt more transparency was needed.

“I respect the decision to cancel the ceremonies, but the way students found out about it was unacceptable,” Gordon said. “The lack of transparency we’ve seen in this decision making is disappointing…I would’ve liked to have seen an email go out immediately after the decision was announced at the Board of Trustees meeting. Most students found out about the decision via posts on Facebook and Twitter, instead of from the administration.”

Perkins said he felt like the university should have made a public statement sooner to control the spread of misinformation that can happen on social media.

“On social media nowadays things can get misconstrued … the school should be on top of letting students know, especially with something like commencement.”

Davison said while he felt the news was coming he wished he would have heard from the university first.

“(I) wish I heard it from the school first before my peers told me. I had an inkling that this could occur considering how other universities are responding to COVID-19… I just wasn’t expecting this in my last semester,” Davison said.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].