Commencement ceremony moved to November

Concerns are raised by students from the 2020 graduating class, regarding rescheduled and limited commencement ceremony.

Since the postponement of the 2020 commencement ceremony and the March ending to their senior year, graduates have needed to consider a variety of factors such as safety, value and expenses, that determine whether they will return to Allegheny for the event.

The commencement ceremony for 2020 graduates will be held on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Originally, the ceremony was set to occur in October. According to the Allegheny website, the change was due to the fact that students would still be present on campus during that time, making it unsafe for the college to hold the ceremony on-site. 

Many changes have been made to the ceremony in order to follow the state and federal COVID-19 safety guidelines. 

“Due to mandates from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we will not be able to hold the ceremony for thousands that you were expecting before (COVID-19), and you will not be able to be housed on campus because the rooms will have just been vacated,” President Hilary Link wrote on the Allegheny commencement website. 

There will also be a 250-person limit in outdoor spaces and no more than two guests per graduate. There will be a live-stream of the event so that anyone that cannot attend will be able to participate virtually. 

“They’re making sure that they have a live stream,” Jason Ferrante, ’20 said. “(So) if you don’t want to invite your immunocompromised or elderly (relatives) to campus, they can still get the same or similar experience.” 

Now, graduates are contemplating whether to attend the ceremony due to factors such as finances and ability to travel. 

The graduates most likely to attend are from within the state and surrounding areas because of proximity to the college, Ferrante said. 

“(The college) wants to make sure that if you live in Arizona, California and places like that, you’re not barred from coming,” Ferrante said. “(They’re) trying to make sure that there’s a way that those students can participate in some way, if they can come to campus.” 

Not only is traveling a potential obstacle, graduates also discussed financial concerns as well. 

“I think it’s hard, especially (with it) being November, people are going to be with family because it’s close to Thanksgiving, so travel expenses are going to be (costly),” Hannah Kitchen, ’20, said. 

Due to the financial burden, Allegheny is considering ways it can reduce the cost to attend the ceremony, Ferrante said. 

“(The college) realized a hotel for two nights, plus gas, plus tolls or an airplane, plus your cap and gown and food could easily turn into a thousand dollar trip,” Ferrante said. “(They) know students don’t necessarily have (those finances), especially given the job market right now.”

Besides travel and finances, graduates also have to take their health into account and whether they consider back coming back to Allegheny in November safe or not. Ferrante explained that, though he plans on attending commencement, the uncertainty around how the COVID-19 pandemic will be in November has been a primary factor to consider for him.

“I guess I’m kind of at the point where I obviously want to go back, but I need to weigh if we can do it safely, which I believe Allegheny can do, but you know there’s an inherent risk in going back to campus and bringing graduates back,” Ferrante said. 

Graduates also have to weigh the value of the ceremony for them in tandem with the other factors.

“I think the main reason it’s a difficult decision is just that, I don’t know if it’s even gonna really be worth it, like risking my health to not even be able to really hug my friends whenever I see them,” Kitchen said. 

Whether graduates consider the ceremony valuable or feasible to them will affect the amount of people attending, Elyse Cinquino, ’20, said. 

“For some people it’s not necessarily worth it for them, just because of the distance and that it’s been a couple of months now (since we’ve been on campus). So, I kind of have a feeling that not everyone’s going to come,” Cinquino said. 

Despite this, 2020 graduates still find value in the ceremony as a means of closure and a proper goodbye after being removed from the college in the spring, Ferrante said. 

“If you think all the way back to March, we were kind of ripped away from Allegheny,” Ferrante said. “We were going on spring break and you know, you could have tried to say that we knew we weren’t coming back, but not everyone knew that, that’s back when we had our first cases in Pennsylvania. So, I think the real desire to come back is that students feel like they were just ripped away from their college experience.” 

Saying a proper goodbye to professors is also a determining factor for graduates going to the ceremony. Additionally, meeting with professors in academic buildings was being considered to be a part of the event in order to spread attendees out across campus, Ferrante said. 

“I didn’t get to say goodbye to my comp professors and, you know, a lot of students didn’t even get to (present) their comp in-person,” Ferrante said. 

Link explained in her letter on the Allegheny website that the commencement ceremony held in November will not make up for the premature ending of the spring semester, but rather, it serves as a way to bring the class of 2020 together again and to honor their work. 

“This is kind of a celebratory thing for everyone who graduated and be able to be recognized for their achievements and that kind of thing is really important to people,” Cinquino said. “Even though it has been several months since we’ve all been back since the 2020 spring semester, I think it’s still important just for tying up loose ends and being able to move on and just finish the chapter.”