Students hope to reschedule ceremony in-person despite May cancellation
Due to the COVID-19 interruption of graduation, Rollins is considering senior student opinions on how to move forward with commencement in the coming months.
President Grant Cornwell announced that commencement and graduation will not happen on time this year in a video sent to seniors on March 31. He also explained Rollins’ plan to ask for senior input on how best to honor the graduating class.
Fulfilling Cornwell’s plan, SGA and Student Affairs chose 18 seniors from different student organizations and leadership positions to form a committee that discusses graduation in two WebEx video conferences.
SGA President Matthew Weiner (‘20HH) said, “We created the Senior Leadership Committee on Graduation in order to start a meaningful dialogue between students who represent diverse backgrounds on campus—who could provide administration a list of recommendations on the revised May 2020 commencement ceremony.”
Weiner added that he “worked alongside Micki Meyer in order to nominate seniors, in both CLA and Holt, who have demonstrated responsible, thoughtful, and insightful leadership throughout their four years at Rollins.”
Micki Meyer, Lord Family assistant vice president of Student Affairs and community, said,“My role was to gather student feedback … I am not a decision-maker in this process, nor are the students who are giving feedback. My whole charge is just to make sure there are ways for students to give feedback based on how we can best honor and support our seniors during this time.”
The group of seniors, including Weiner and Men’s Basketball player Elijah Noel (‘20), joined the WebEx meetings to express their loss, as well as to consider all options when postponing the graduation date.
“There’s a lot of students who have said they’ve waited 16 years of school for this, especially the last four here at Rollins,” said Noel.
One of the main concerns seniors had in the meetings was having an in-person graduation ceremony to honor their time at Rollins and to celebrate with family and friends. Many students wanted to have an on-campus event honoring the original day of graduation, May 10.
“Particularly for first-generation students, students of color, non-traditional students, and international students, this is a disappointing time, as you can imagine,” said Weiner.
Though the students in the meeting do not have a final say as to what the solution to graduation and commencement is, the college is taking their opinions on possible solutions into account. The most proposed solution is to push the ceremonies back to a future date.
“Students also believe and feel that we should have a formal commencement ceremony down the road,” said Meyer. “Not too far down the road that students do not feel a connection to their commencement, but not too soon that we are in the same predicament we’re in now.”
Noel believes that the college should go with whichever date is most inclusive: “I think maybe a December graduation wouldn’t be so bad … It might just be a more convenient time for all parties involved to come back to campus to finally walk for a commencement and graduation ceremony,” he said.
Although an official solution has not been announced, the college and senior student body are working to create one that works best with all students in the aftermath of this pandemic.
Cornwell ended his video message to Rollins seniors on a positive note: “In the meantime, I urge you to practice social distancing. Be safe because we are Tars together and Tars for life. Fiat Lux.”