The coronavirus pandemic has upended all parts of life and halted plans here, around the country, and across the globe — from weddings to funerals to long-awaited graduation ceremonies.
Thus, colleges in the Memphis area have begun looking at alternative ways to celebrate their seniors.
Christian Brothers University (CBU) has already moved to cancel it’s spring ceremony, originally planned for May 9th. Leslie Graff, vice president of communications and marketing for CBU said the university is exploring various options, including a virtual ceremony, a rescheduled fall ceremony, or a combined ceremony in Spring 2021.
“We will likely pursue a blend of virtually celebrating our graduating students this spring and holding an in-person ceremony whenever we are able to since we know the experience of walking across the graduation stage is so important for not only our students but their families,” Graff said.
The school is currently polling seniors to assess the best way to celebrate their accomplishments, looking for unique ideas.
“We know everyone wants some certainty right now and we all definitely need something positive to look forward to, so we’re hoping to make some decisions soon,” Graff said.
The University of Memphis (U of M) is working to finalize their commencement plan by the end of the week, but will likely hold a virtual ceremony.
In an email earlier this week, U of M president, M. David Rudd, told seniors that he shares their disappointment about the “disruption of spring commencement.”
“Although we will not be able to celebrate our seniors and others scheduled to graduate in May in the traditional manner because of the significant risk to public health, we will celebrate and honor spring graduates with a virtual ceremony,” Rudd said. “We are actively monitoring COVID-19, and if circumstances change for the better, we are planning for a traditional ceremony in late summer or early fall.”
Rhodes College will make a final decision on it’s commencement ceremony by April 15th, the college’s president Majorie Hass, said in an email to seniors this week. Other options the college is considering are a virtual ceremony or an in-person ceremony on a later date.
“Whether or not we can hold a commencement ceremony on May 16th, as planned, now depends not only on our judgement but on the judgement of our officials at the local, state, and federal levels,” Hass said. “If the situation has changed favorably by then and restrictions on public gatherings appear ready to end at the end of April, we will hold commencement as planned. If — as it seems more and more likely — orders to avoid public gatherings are likely to extend through May, then we will implement an alternative celebration plan.”
Rhodes has established a planning committee composed of students and faculty to craft an alternative plan. The committee will be sending surveys to seniors to generate ideas.
“We are seeking to understand the things that matter the most to you: connecting as a class, celebrating with family, honoring faculty and staff who have helped you reach this point, taking pictures in your cap and gown, crossing the seal, etc,” Hass said. “Understanding what commencement means to you will help us develop a meaningful alternative commemoration should we need to do so.”