Vanessa Alvarez

Florida Southern sent an email to students in late Sept. featuring updates on how the school will continue operating as the health climate evolves, which includes the cancellation of Dec. Commencement. 

FSC is among many colleges and universities cancelling upcoming commencement ceremonies due to COVID-19. On Sept. 24, the Tampa Bay Times published an article revealing that state officials in Florida encouraged large universities to cancel or postpone commencement ceremonies. 

“The College has made the difficult decision to forgo an in-person December commencement ceremony to continue to prioritize the health of our community,” the email read. “While difficult, this decision is based on expert analysis of pandemic conditions and consistent with other institutions that monitor those conditions closely.” 

Though it did not come across as a shock, the announcement joined the long list of disappointments that came with 2020. 

“I pretty much expected that graduation would be cancelled so I wasn’t surprised at all,” Dec. graduate Olivia Kerper said. “I would have been more surprised if it wasn’t cancelled.”

As someone who has taken nearly every precaution to avoid exposure to COVID-19, I understand the extremity of the decisions FSC is making to protect students, faculty and families, as that should be the primary goal right now. I will say, though, I continue to struggle to accept the cancellation of graduation for a handful of reasons. 

First off, schools across the nation adapted to the COVID-19 climate by creatively innovating a health conscious ceremony to celebrate graduates. Florida Southern brings together the entire school for graduation, so why not hold several ceremonies to celebrate students by department? 

Additionally, though I am extremely opposed to his decisions, Governor Ron DeSantis removed state regulated COVID-19 restrictions including removing fines for mask violations and allowing businesses to open at full capacity. If a restaurant in Florida can be packed with people not wearing masks, why can’t we have a CDC compliant graduation ceremony to celebrate the hard-work and dedication from FSC’s students? 

Since I started at Florida Southern, graduation has been my guide to stay motivated and succeed in all aspects of my college career. Between remote learning from COVID-19, a seemingly shorter semester and the infamous “senioritis,” losing graduation has made this semester feel rather stagnant. 

“Graduation getting cancelled hasn’t altered my academic motivation, but this semester definitely has. everything about it—being remote, having an accelerated semester with no breaks—it’s really difficult to stay motivated and prioritize academics,” says Kerper.

Similar to Spring 2020 graduates, Fall graduates were invited to attend the in-person commencement ceremony in 2021.I will admit, similar to many, participating in a commencement ceremony five months after I wrap up my undergraduate career does not seem ideal. 

Especially because the date of the next in-person graduation ceremony is extremely unpredictable as there is still much uncertainty regarding COVID-19 to begin with. 

“I don’t plan to attend spring graduation, said Kerper. I am so burnt out from school and genuinely just want to finish in December and move on with my life,” said Kerper. 

Despite the complications that continue to rise due to COVID-19, I appreciate the efforts Florida Southern is going through to highlight the achievements of graduates. The decision to cancel an event as significant as commencement must be a challenging discussion, but the school is working hard to honor graduates in the most safe, practical way.  

Florida Southern still intends on celebrating graduating seniors this Dec. through a virtual ceremony occurring the morning of Dec. 19, 2020. Additionally, students will be given the opportunity to take formal pictures on campus during a designated time. For more information regarding commencement, visit Florida Southern’s website. 

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