What will Spring 2021 commencement look like at Edinboro?

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 at 2:48 PM
What will Spring 2021 commencement look like at Edinboro? by Nicholas Constantino
Photo: Pexels.com

As the end of the semester approaches, commencement is on the minds of Edinboro’s graduating students. But this year, the graduation ceremony will look a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by student action.

After Edinboro University officials announced an entirely virtual commencement on March 5, two seniors — Maeve Stewart and Bailey Summerville — countered with a Change.org petition asking for an in-person component. After 1,300 signatures, the university reconsidered and announced they would offer that in-person portion.

We spoke to Angela Burrows, Edinboro’s vice president for marketing and communications, about what students can now expect Spring 2021 commencement to look like.

“The virtual commencement will be the full ceremony from start to finish,” said Burrows. “This [in-person] recognition ceremony will be an opportunity for students to process around the stadium,” and pick up their diploma holder. A later email confirmed that the recognition ceremony will be held at Sox Harrison Stadium, rain or shine. In addition, those that attend will be allowed to bring two guests.

She clarified that the ceremonies are two separate events. The in-person ceremony will occur sometime in the late afternoon on May 8, while the virtual ceremony will be posted earlier in the day. Burrows stated the start time of the in-person event has yet to be confirmed, but they are looking at around 3 p.m. (it will also be livestreamed).

When asked how Dr. Michael Hannan and the commencement committee decided on both a virtual and in-person ceremony, Burrows explained how they initially decided to hold just the virtual ceremony. Students spoke up, brought a petition to the attention of the university, and spoke to Edinboro President Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson. Pehrsson, in turn, “committed to doing a survey and finding out exactly what students were looking for and then getting back with a response.”

According to Burrows, 44 graduate students and 239 undergraduate students responded to the survey. Per the survey results, 15 graduate and 74 undergraduate respondents preferred a completely virtual ceremony, followed by a small recognition ceremony; two graduates and 13 undergraduates preferred a fully virtual ceremony in May with a full recognition ceremony in the fall; three graduates and 38 undergraduates preferred only a completely virtual ceremony; 12 graduates and 26 undergraduates had no preference; and 12 graduates and 88 undergraduates preferred only a small informal recognition ceremony.

According to Burrows, student feedback and a better accessibility to the vaccine was what caused the committee to reconsider their decision.

When asked about participation for the in-person ceremony, Burrows said, “It’s hard to know; we are going to ask students to RSVP so we have a sense of how many to expect.” RSVPs are due by April 21 at midnight.

Burrows said the university would of course like to have a traditional graduation, as “it really is the biggest day of the year because it marks the culmination of why we all do what we do.” And of the eventual decision, Burrows said, “this is a compromise and we think it’s a fair compromise; it’s the best of both worlds … the full ceremony virtually and yet there will be some type of in-person event.”

She explained that the overall student survey feedback was positive. “I think students were grateful that we listened to them.”

As to future commencement ceremonies, Burrows said: “our hope is to go back to what we are accustomed to doing. And things are looking … much better for next year, again with the vaccine. So, I would think by next year we’ll be much closer to … doing something much more typical.”

Nicholas Constantino is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: graduation

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