Seniors deserve more than a virtual ceremony

Illustration by Madeline Cox


On March 10, Lewis & Clark announced that this year’s commencement ceremony would be fully virtual. When I heard this, I was disappointed and confused. This school year, LC allowed students to participate in New Student Orientation (NSO), live on campus and attend classes in person. So why could we not have graduation in person as well? When I later received another email concerning commencement, I was hopeful that the college had reversed their decision and would hold the ceremony in person. Instead, LC  announced that while the college had decided to hold events in person throughout the week of graduation, commencement would still be held entirely virtually. This announcement was merely a conciliation for LC students and community members who had complained, and it was not a satisfactory response. 

LC deciding to hold commencement virtually is hypocritical, as the college has continued to lift restrictions on student activity throughout the semester. Starting Feb. 12, in-person dining for the Trail Room, Fields Dining Hall and Stamm was opened, students could apply to host in-person events and residential students could move between residence halls. Not only have restrictions eased, but at the beginning of the year, students attended NSO in person. A large portion of the events were held outside and socially distanced — and masks were required — but it still gave new students the opportunity to meet each other and celebrate the start of their time at LC. Can graduating students not receive the same opportunity to celebrate the end of our time at LC? 

The college has had almost an entire year since the COVID-19 pandemic began to prepare for 2021 commencement, they could have found a way to hold graduation in person during that time. This past June, my former high school was able to plan and host an in-person graduation ceremony for seniors in a matter of months. Students were driven up to the graduation stage by their families, where they could receive their diploma and pose for a photo. They then got back into their car and drove through campus past cheering faculty and community members. The ceremony felt just as celebratory and memorable as my own high school graduation. The only difference was that everyone was wearing a mask. Although my high school is about half the size of LC, colleges of similar or even larger sizes are holding in-person commencement ceremonies this year. 

Reed College is holding its commencement ceremony in person this May with a plan that LC could easily mimic, as they are colleges of a similar size in the same area. Only students and faculty will be allowed to attend the event in person, but the ceremony will be livestreamed and recorded for families and friends to watch. In order to follow Oregon’s current guidelines for hosting in-person outdoor events, Reed will rotate groups of students organized by major through the commencement stage to receive their diplomas. All graduates will be required to participate in COVID-19 testing before the ceremony as well. 

LC’s graduation should be held in person and operate in a similar way to Reed’s current commencement plan. The least that our college could do is give seniors one last memorable experience at LC. I have spent almost a year and half sitting in my bedroom staring at Zoom, and that is not how I want to celebrate the end of my college journey.

This article presents opinions held by the author, not those of The Pioneer Log, its editorial board or those interviewed for background information

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