Regardless of a change.org petition calling for an in-person graduation, Saint Mary’s’ administration fails to reconsider their earlier decision canceling the 2021 commencement and, in so doing, neglects to properly commemorate the achievements of their graduating class.
By Katelyn McCarthy
Johnny shall never come marching home, nor shall he ever receive his hearty welcome. At least, not at Saint Mary’s.
Anyone having listened in on phone and Zoom conversations held among Saint Mary’s’ seniors in the past few weeks will have realized that the topic of graduation has made many of them anything but happy campers.
A recent petition asking Saint Mary’s to reconsider her cancellation of her traditional commencement ceremonies is indicative of this fact. Having garnered over 600 signatures thus far (a number just about equivalent to the size of the graduating class), it is clear that a significant portion of the Saint Mary’s community disagrees sharply with the administration’s sudden decision.
While the College attempts to stamp a cheery face on every decision she makes regarding her response to COVID-19, doing so has masked over the glum reality in which most students have found themselves mired. Her pronouncement regarding commencement is the latest and one of the most extreme.
One only graduates from college once. It is, for most students, the celebration of the culmination of their academic careers. Completing a rigorous course of study, especially under a year and a half of adverse circumstances, is a fundamentally different sort of thing than, say, a kindergarten graduation. The two ought not be treated equivocally. And yet, it seems as though they are.
The solemnity of the collegiate commencement merits more than a caravan around campus. It is fundamentally dehumanizing to hold a graduation ceremony in which one is required to interact with the backs of one’s peers’ heads through the confines of a metal box penetrable only by translucent panes of glass. After having been removed from their classmates and professors for over a year, Saint Mary’s’ seniors deserve one last reminder that they are actually Gaels and not just walking dollar signs who are expediently booted out once their time is up.
If Zoom school has been house arrest, then a drive-through graduation is but parole. A traditional commencement, on the other hand, is freedom. Isn’t that what a graduation, especially celebrating a liberal arts education, is all about?
I, for one, would be more than happy to graduate in-person either in May or when it becomes permissible to do so some time in the future. I suggest that the administration communicate with their graduates as to what the graduates’ preferred ceremony might be, and plan from there.
The College, however, has not conceded the possibility of even a postponed graduation. Instead, she has thrown in the towel. “Congratulations, graduates,” she seems to say. “It was nice knowing you.
“After all you have gone through—being abruptly separated from your friends, classmates, and professors; spending over a year in quarantine staring at your computer screens so as to benefit the health of the College at large; being deprived of human connection, meaningful education, and spiritual growth in community—we would like to dismiss you quietly and with little fanfare.”
This “sending off” by Saint Mary’s’ administration is contrary to the human and Christian treatment of the student that our College promotes. Saint Mary’s needs to reconsider the decision to cancel the 2021 commencement ceremonies and give our graduating Gaels the opportunity for the celebration that they deserve.
Author's Note: Individuals interested in reading the petition campaigning for a traditional commencement may do so here: https://www.change.org/p/jyc3-stmarys-ca-edu-saint-mary-s-college-students-want-in-person-commencement-our-grad-class-is-small-enough?redirect=false
Victoria Vidales '21,