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Opinion: Commencement should be an in-person, not virtual, event

Following strict CDC guidelines, an in-person commencement is still viable

In President Cornwell’s recent email to the student body, he mentioned moving graduation back a day, adding that the college hasn’t yet made a decision on whether the ceremony will be in-person or virtual. 

The COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t mean the end of commencement as we know it. Seniors should be able to walk across the stage masked and socially distant in celebration of all they have accomplished at Rollins. It should not be a solely virtual event.

My high school graduation last year was outside and completely socially distanced with the exception of receiving my diploma. Attendance was optional, allowing families who didn’t want to risk contracting the virus to attend virtually instead. In the case there was an outbreak, the school had us come to campus in small groups to film a prerecorded graduation ceremony that we could watch at home with our families. 

Thankfully, the school never experienced an outbreak at graduation or otherwise. All in all, it was a pleasant experience, besides sitting in direct sunlight for hours.

Wearing masks and social distancing has worked so far in the Rollins community, so why not continue it and allow students to have the big moment they’ve waited four years for? Rollins has allowed students to eat in the dining hall, which means students are wearing no masks while there are other students less than six feet away. Surely an in-person graduation is more important than eating in the dining hall. 

Many scientists and new studies are saying that wearing masks and social distancing could be the “vaccine” for COVID-19 for the next year. According to the study “Masks Do More than Protect Others during COVID-19…” by Gandhi et al., masks drastically improve COVID-19 transmission rates. 

The hope is that a vaccine will exist before graduation takes place, but there is no guarantee. According to the New York Times, as of right now, there are only six vaccines that have been approved for early and limited use, and zero are ready for full use. 

I was lucky enough to have an in-person high school graduation ceremony last year, held outdoors and socially distanced with masks, while most of my friends were stuck watching a YouTube live stream of their picture and name instead of walking across the stage to receive their diploma. 

The hard work that I had put into my education for the past 12 years seemed to finally pay off, even though the ceremony was slightly different from years past. A college graduation is an even bigger achievement, so Rollins should not be considering a virtual graduation ceremony for the class of 2021 when we have (hopefully) already dealt with the worst of the pandemic.

I’m very grateful that my high school valued the seniors enough to go through the trouble of creating a ceremony following the strict CDC guidelines. If my high school could accomplish this task, Rollins definitely can, and should. 

For many students, this is their last graduation, thus commencement should be perfect for them. If the proper precautions are taken and strict guidelines are put in place, Rollins graduates can have a commencement ceremony they will never forget.

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.

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