Fitchburg State postpones spring commencement amid coronavirus concerns

Alexa Nogueira—

On Wednesday, March 25, the Fitchburg State University President’s Office emailed students a commencement update from President Richard Lapidus. Lapidus explained in his update that May commencement celebrations have been postponed in accordance with public health guidance.

Lapidus assured students that “the university is fully committed to honoring and celebrating the Class of 2020,” and that the University would investigate “all options to recognize your achievement and the arrival of this important milestone in your life.”

Attached to the update email was a survey that the University Commencement Committee requested the Class of 2020 to fill out. The purpose of the survey was for students to share their ideas about the commencement ceremony with the committee. 

The survey included the questions “Are you a graduate or undergraduate student?” and “Had you planned on attending the commencement ceremony in May?” After answering those initial questions, students could then select whether or not they were interested in a virtual graduation or an in-person ceremony.

Two days later, the President’s Office sent out a second email that included an amended academic calendar for the Spring 2020 semester. The calendar reflects the postponement of both the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies.

Many students expressed that they expected commencement to be postponed, although they were still disappointed.

“To be honest, I had been anticipating it so it did not hit me very hard,” said Olivia Koravos, a senior graduating this spring. “In the weeks leading up to the announcement, I let myself feel upset about it and digest everything. I think if it had been canceled altogether with no later celebration proposed, I would have been devastated.”

Alyssa Mackinnon, who is also a senior graduating this spring, felt similarly.

“I wasn’t surprised by the news necessarily, but it still hurt in a sense,” said Mackinnon. “For me personally—and I imagine other students too—it was disappointing to realize because we worked so hard for four-plus years, not to mention those who had a rough time somewhere in between. In a way, we worked hard for a traditional ceremony, and so that being put on hold can’t help but initially sting a little. Nonetheless, I am grateful that commencement wasn’t canceled altogether. That really would’ve crushed me.”

Although students were disappointed by the postponement, many felt that it was still a necessary measure to take with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“I do think it is necessary to postpone commencement considering we are still entering the thick of the virus here in the states,” said Koravos. “With that being said, I think once we start to see the curve drop and have a better plan for the general public in place moving forward, then we can set a date for the ceremony.”

“I’m more in the middle ground with if I agree with the University’s decision or not,” said Mackinnon. “In other words, I don’t have a solid opinion on the matter, but with everything we’ve seen, it’s probably best that it is postponed. No matter my personal feelings, the safety of everyone involved is especially important.”

Although the nature of the future commencement ceremony remains undecided, some students hope that whatever decision is made does not result in a virtual ceremony.

“I do think a virtual ceremony would not be the right way to go,” said Koravos. “I and many of my fellow seniors are hoping that would be the very last resort, as walking across the stage is a once and a lifetime moment that we have worked immensely hard for.”

At this time, a decision has not been announced as to where or when the spring commencement ceremony will take place.

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