DUELING COLUMN: Online Commencement Is Unfair To Fall Graduates

Damielys Duarte/Assistant Opinion Director

On September 25, fall graduates received an email from FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, notifying us that our long awaited graduation ceremony would be held virtually, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the safety of FIU faculty, staff and students is important, I do believe FIU should make every attempt to hold a live graduation ceremony on campus—especially when other exceptions have been made.

For both Spring and Summer commencement ceremonies, the nation was still spiraling out of control in regards to the current pandemic. At the time it was understandable to perform the ceremonies virtually. However, with fall graduation nearly three months away, I do believe FIU jumped the gun by announcing another virtual ceremony. 

On September 28, FIU External Relations released an email stating the school would be hosting socially distanced football games, with priority seating for 1,900 students. This seems almost a betrayal to the hundreds and maybe thousands of FIU students graduating this Fall semester. 

Without a live ceremony to look forward to, all of my intentions for purchasing my robe and honor codes seems fickle and unnecessary, seeing as they will most likely not pass the front steps of my house.

In no way should an FIU football game be prioritized over the most important aspect of a postsecondary degree. It was no wonder that a petition was created calling for a socially distant graduation ceremony the next day. It listed viable alternatives for a graduation ceremony, one of which was the possibility of an open air ceremony in the Ricardo Silva Stadium, the same arena the school planned on hosting its socially distanced fiu football games.

It also helps that on September 25 Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed Executive Order 20-244 which placed the entire state into Phase 3 of the Covid-19 recovery plan, which lifted all state restrictions related to the pandemic, including the civil citations for the violation of mask usage. And while the county of Miami Dade is still pulling back on the reigns of complete reopening, this is still a bright sign that the situation in Florida will continue to improve. 

In addition to the open policy the state is taking in addressing the virus, the sentimental value of the ceremony should not be ignored. For many first generation students, they will be the first in their family to undertake a post secondary degree. To not be able to celebrate that occasion officially with the University is a tough blow for anyone.

I had family members graduate from FIU a few years ago, and I can still remember how excited we all were for their ceremony and having the entire family at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center to commemorate their hard work and achievements. Since then, I have eagerly looked forward to my chance to cross the stage and showcase the fruits of my academic labor to my family.

However, due to Roseberg’s recent email, it seems that might not be a possibility and I couldn’t be more devastated. While I still have one more chance for a commencement ceremony with my upcoming graduate degree, I cannot say the same for my fellow peers who are concluding their academic career. As such this serves as their final chance to celebrate their educational merits. 

Without a live ceremony to look forward to, all of my intentions for purchasing my robe and honor codes seems fickle and unnecessary, seeing as they will most likely not pass the front steps of my house. The sacred nature of graduation is suddenly meaningless, and while the option of a virtual ceremony is nice, that could never replace the reverence of attending your university graduation ceremony with your friends and families.

With the uncertainty of the virus and the statewide response to it, it is simply too soon to determine if a live commencement ceremony is not possible and I believe the school owes it to its students to try and offer this amazing celebration of hard work and dedication. 

While the year 2020 may have started off on a completely different foot than what was anticipated, there would be no greater way to end the year than with the joyful celebration of new beginnings as a toast to—what we hope will be a much better year—2021.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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Featured image by FIU Flickr.

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