BU cancels in-person commencement, will host virtual ceremony instead

Virtual—not in-person—graduation ceremonies will be held on Aug. 7 in accordance with the Commonwealth’s phased reopening, announced Dr. Bashar Hanna, Bloomsburg University President, in an email to spring and summer 2020 graduates.

The decision to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies comes months after the university released a March 26 update stating they were “working toward celebrating Commencement in-person the weekend of August 7-9, pending any future issues related to COVID-19.”

Now, an in-person celebration won’t happen this summer. Some graduates feel the timing of the decision was poor, and in the end, let them down twice.

“After making us wait an extra 3 months to have our graduation, giving us hope that it would actually happen, it has once again been taken away,” wrote BU graduate Sam Yeick on Facebook.

Since gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited in the green phase, BU made the tough decision to cancel.

Another graduate, Alyssa Armstrong, shared, “[They] let us hold onto hope for 3 months knowing what the outcome would be.”

The announcement regarding graduation ceremonies mentioned further details will be forthcoming, including the possibility of participating in a ceremony next spring.

“The registrar’s office will provide more information about participating in an in-person ceremony in May 2021, should this option be of interest to you,” wrote Dr. Hanna.

However, a spring 2021 ceremony hasn’t placated many graduates or their families, who took to social media to express their disappointment.

“As a parent I am extremely upset about this. THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY. I wish the university would have considered other alternatives; virtual graduation is pointless,” wrote Bethany Derrickson LePera in the comment section of BU’s Facebook post.  

Numerous people commenting, which included graduates, family members and alumni, called for the university to consider offering an in-person graduation this summer, even offering up their own suggestions.

Michelle Kochenash Milisits, a BU alum, proposed holding multiple ceremonies, one major or college at a time, at the Bloomsburg Fair Grandstand, where her graduation was held.

“There are so many creative ways that graduates are getting to walk across that stage. Come on Bloom, think outside the box!” wrote Milisits.

A Twitter post even suggests graduates organize and hold their own “fake graduation” in August.

Withholding an in-person ceremony until next May is not a feasible option for some graduates who may be studying, working or serving out-of-the-area by that time.

Mike Stowell, a graduate, commented that asking him to wait for a ceremony in May 2021 would be “asking [him] to travel back to the area and possibly take time off work in order to do so.”

For now, a virtual ceremony is apparently the best BU can do to compromise.

“I share your disappointment that we – the entire BU Family – cannot gather in person to celebrate this achievement with you. On behalf of your faculty and all my colleagues, I look forward to being together virtually on Aug. 8, and celebrating with all of you in a unique and meaningful way,” stated Dr. Hanna.

The plans for a virtual commencement do not seem to be pleasing many people, such as Becky Ekins, who said graduation shouldn’t be all or nothing.

“It’s a good thing the university isn’t getting graded on their handling of graduation. It would be a 0.0,” wrote Ekins.

Featured image from BU’s Spring 2019 undergraduate ceremony, May 11, 2019.