Students’ Association weighs in on 2020 graduation

J. Michael Bertsch, News and Lifestyles Editor

In response to the COVID-19 campus closure, a graduation task force is working to reschedule the graduation ceremony for the class of 2020, as well as set up a virtual ceremony for May 9. 

Students’ Association President Allyson Monson and Vice President Corey Berscheit are members of the task force, and brought questions from the group to the March 30 Senate meeting. 

Here were some questions discussed by the Senate. 

Q: What needs to be done May 9 to provide recognition and celebration for our students?

A: “It’s not necessarily that I don’t get to walk across the stage, it’s the fact that I wont get to celebrate with my friends and my family,” Sen. Brianna Schreurs said. “I think it would be something really special if we offered some kind of kit to send home to all the graduates.”

“Something has to happen that day. That’s still Graduation Day 2020 to me. Everything that’s not just the graduates walking should be done virtually on this day,” Communications Chair Nick Lorang said. “But we should not make it participatory because that would waste everyone’s time.”

“I think in that kit they should have something with everyone’s names on it that you can frame,” BSA Pres. Akeah Aschmeller said. “Make it known that you want people to spend time with their families for those ceremonies.”

Q: What are your thoughts on a virtual ceremony? And by practicing social distancing and following CDC recommendations, what are components of a graduation ceremony you would like to see in an online ceremony?

A: “If we do a virtual ceremony they should ask us all for a picture as well instead of just a name,” Finance Chair Jesse Carlson said.

“I think it’s important to remember that parents and grandparents are affected by this as well. Maybe on May 9 each do a video where you say your name and post your photo,” Sen. Emma Williams said. “I want to reiterate that it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be personal.”

Q: What could a future ceremony look like?

A: “SDSU is a land grant university, so we have many large plots of land. Maybe we could split students by department and have smaller ceremonies in different properties,” Sen. Dustin Manzey said.

“Have a representative from each department or something like that. Something personal will remove the need to be flashy,” Sen. Megan Fiala said.

“I think the idea of a homecoming vibe is interesting in the sense that I don’t know if we could otherwise replicate the importance of that (graduation) day,” Schreurs said.

“Maybe they could do a Class of 2020 Day like they do Senior Day for recruitment,” Carlson said.

Q: If there was a physical ceremony, what would be an ideal time?

A: “Many students like myself will be in professional school or working a full-time job,” Sen. Megan Kellen said. “We should not do it over a two-day weekend.”

“I don’t think we want to have competing events for our alumni. Hobo Day is already in October; if we do both in October one of those events is going to suffer,” Lorang said. “The August or September time feels good, but we do need to overestimate the time period and the impact of this disease.”

Q: Would you come back for a graduation ceremony?

A: “A lot of people won’t have the ability to come back,” Aschmeller said.

“I just need another excuse to come back to Brookings and see my friends,” Carlson said.

“The longer we wait the less likely they are to come back,” Sen. Jennifer Tonak said.

Q: What could a future alternative look like? 

A: “Considering that you all are such a unique class, one thing I can think of, if there is no actual thing (ceremony), is making it a visual on campus of this graduating class.” Multicultural Latino Retention Advisor Dr. Florencio Aranda said. “Maybe creating a wall or statue for that graduating semester.”

Q: How would you feel if we did the virtual May 9 announcement sooner, and the physical celebration was announced later?

A: “Include a small section in the first email that references the fact that more is to come about the in-person celebration,” Kellen said. 

“I feel like the university has been beating around the bush with a lot of this stuff. Make sure it’s all cohesive, in the same email and allow students to provide feedback,” Aschmeller said. 

“In addition to students, maybe reach out to families, because they play a part.” Sen. Sameer Keshavan said. “Letting them know what’s going on will show the transparency in what we’re trying to accomplish and clear out any confusion.”

There is another graduation task force meeting this Thursday, April 2, with more information to follow.