University offers 2020 graduates in-person ceremony


Sam TapperEditor-in-Chief

Abby EpsteinManaging Editor

The Class of 2020 is coming back. The university is giving the 2020 seniors the opportunity to walk at this year’s commencement.

“We have five ceremonies, so what we are going to do is we are going to look at our numbers,” said Patrick Dilger, director of integrated communications and marketing.”On April 15th we will have the numbers, that is the shut off point for expressing your interest in walking and then we’ll see how we incorporate [the Class of 2020] whether it’s per school or college or whether it’s all together at one of the ceremonies.”

Last year, the university’s graduation festivities were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To compensate, the university held a virtual commencement ceremony for its graduating seniors. While it served as an alternative, not all participants were pleased.

“We still had a handful of students – maybe two handfuls of students – that were really still feeling like their experience wasn’t complete,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Tracy Tyree, “that they needed this in-person, walk-across- -the-stage experience. And that led us to a lot of conversation.”

Dilger said they have been talking to the other Connecticut Universities and are all allowing last year’s graduating class to come back. Southern is looking to incorporate the Class of 2020 into the five ceremonies already planned. The decision yet to be made is if they all will have one ceremony together or if they will be split up amongst the other ceremonies.

“It really depends on the numbers from the 2020 class and it also depends on the numbers from the 2021 class, because some of the schools and colleges have potentially far more graduates than others,” said Dilger.

There are still many things to figure out, if the Class of 2020 will be able to have guests. Dilger said they hope it will be possible but cannot be sure until after April 15.

“We are able to accommodate about 1,000 parents based roughly on 500 graduates per college or per ceremony,” said Dilger. “There is still uncertainty out there so we wanted to give everybody the option, after April 15 once we know our numbers then we will determine how we will set this up.”

There was a group of students who started a petition regarding a chance to walk at graduation. Dilger and Tyree said they were aware of the petition, but it was not a deciding factor in letting the Class of 2020 come back. There were other students who individually reached out asking about coming back to walk at graduation.

“We were looking at student interest from all angles, but the bottom line we thought this was thing to do because students who wanted to walk, we’re giving them the opportunity to walk and we certainly understand that,” said Dilger.

Last year’s seniors will be announced as members of the Class of 2020 when they are called to walk across the stage. Dilger said they want to give every student the chance to walk at graduation.

“We are trying to create opportunity for everybody here, I think having our graduates outside with faculty, staff, friends and family members, even a limited capacity will be a great thing after almost two years of not being able to do things as we normally would,” said Dilger. “It will be a great way to hopefully move forward into the fall.”

While this may not be an ideal solution to all of last year’s graduating seniors, Tyree suggested they all keep the “glass half-full” mentality, as this is a result of things getting closer to normal.

“I would ask, if somebody were asking me, to have the glass half-full perspective, which is that in some ways, this class is getting more,” Tyree said. “This class got this cool memory board, these videos, this way to celebrate their friends. They got these yard signs, there were a lot of things that we did for the Class of 2020 that we have never done, some that we will retain because they were so great.”

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