DUELING COLUMN: Remote Fall Graduation Is The Right Thing To Do

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

It certainly is painful to acknowledge a cold, hard truth: this pandemic is far from over.

It has already been almost eight months and despite this virus traveling and infecting at roadrunner speed, we have a long way to go. Less than ten percent of Americans have antibodies for COVID-19 despite the country’s reopening, and scientists say that even with a vaccine, achieving widespread immunity is tedious and incredibly difficult. All but seven states have at least 1,000 infections per 100,000 people.

With that being said, FIU can do its part by limiting gatherings as much as possible. Therefore, graduation must be held remotely.

It really sucks life out of the experience, but at least it won’t be cancelled entirely. What would truly ruin it for someone is if they catch a deadly disease, which is somewhat likely given COVID-19’s incomprehensible spread.

Here in Florida, a high school graduation was to blame for a COVID-19 infection. And a university I intend to visit next year, the University of Rhode Island, now has more cases because of small student gatherings. An in-person event is even riskier here in Miami, given that it was the pandemic’s epicenter not long ago and has a populace struggling with medical expenses.

Our students, faculty, county and panther families have been through enough. The university has done a stellar job of guiding us through this pandemic, with remote learning and events and the Panthers Protecting Panthers program keeping cases down. Far fewer cases have been reported than I would expect. Holding a major event in-person, even with social distancing, is too much of a risk that could reverse progress.

Putting students at needless risk of sickness and death for the sake of a more memorable experience flies in the face of our collective efforts to beat this virus.

Holding graduation remotely could also allow the FIU family to bring more people into the event, as family members can join from one screen alongside their graduating panther without having to keep their distance or wear a mask. In addition, people may get a better chance to meet our president, Mark B. Rosenberg, and other campus leaders.

Graduation can still be enriching if done remotely. It will require enthusiasm to get everyone hyped up, and attendees should be allowed to enter breakout rooms to keep conversation alive. Also, the event should be prepared far in advance to accommodate the large number of attendees: if even our Zoom classes crash on us forty-five minutes in, an hours-long graduation needs special protection.

Consider this another temporary blunder: hopefully this will be the last remote graduation FIU ever needs to hold. Already, the signs are not especially promising but it is the job of the university to ensure a safe learning environment. Putting students at needless risk of sickness and death for the sake of a more memorable experience flies in the face of our collective efforts to beat this virus.

Not only that, but holding a safe remote graduation can show the country and world the greatness of FIU and help the university be a model for those who are making plans for the school year. We can come out of this crisis stronger than ever.

Ultimately, I know panthers who have endured tremendous struggles in protecting themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19. To truly protect other Panthers, and show respect for those who are enduring the worst, let’s take a deep breath, calm our nerves, and have a remote graduation. When we’re out of this pandemic, we can hopefully congregate and celebrate in-person.

The virus has killed one million people worldwide. We can keep it from killing one million Americans.


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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