Students concerned about virtual graduation options


Photo Illustration by Grace Maness

With CSU Bakersfield switching to a temporary virtual campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of how the spring 2020 commencement ceremony will be executed has been up in the air.

COVID-19 restrictions, such as social distancing and staying six feet away from anyone from outside one’s own household, make holding a natural ceremony difficult. This is compounded by the economic factors that would make purchasing items like graduation regalia a financial burden.

These concerns have weighed on the minds of CSUB students for weeks.

There have been questions from students about whether CSUB will be holding a virtual ceremony or if CSUB will hold the ceremony at a later date when social distancing is over.

Having a physical ceremony is important to students like Brenda Flores, a liberal studies major and first-generation college student.

“I feel the current situation is very disappointing and unfortunate (mainly because it was out of everyone’s control). I am a first-generation college student, so my family was very excited, more so than me. It is something I have come to accept. I do not wish for a virtual ceremony; I rather wait until this is all over and have a physical ceremony. However, I feel it should be separate from that of the fall class. They deserve their own spotlight as much as we do,” Flores said in a Facebook post.

On April 9 during a virtual Runner Walk and Talk with CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny, commencement was addressed. The administration at that time had no plans to hold a virtual ceremony, nor did they plan to combine fall 2020 graduates with spring 2020 graduates for an expanded ceremony in December.

Holding a virtual ceremony did not seem like a good option to Maya Rodriquez, a sociology major. Rodriguez wants to be able to celebrate the achievement with her graduating class in person.

“I think the current situation is extremely disappointing. The ceremony means a great deal, I know to a lot it is just that a “ceremony” a social construct, [but] that doesn’t take away from the fact that we actually earned our degrees. But to a lot of us and me it’s disappointing and makes me sad to think about. I hope CSUB doesn’t head toward the virtual direction. I hope they postpone the ceremony until they give the graduating class their proper ceremony and recognition for the work we did,” Rodriguez said.

Steffany Lara, a psychology major, was grateful for the decision CSUB administration had made about graduation, and is hopeful for a commencement. However, Lara would be disappointed by a virtual graduation.

“I think I was mostly grateful that the CSUB administrators made the decision to postpone commencement and not cancel it completely. A virtual ceremony is not at all as meaningful for many of us first generation students who want to make that culminating event special for ourselves and loved ones. It is frustrating that we have to wait now for a potential fall or spring ’21 ceremony but either of those options is better than a virtual one,” Lara said.

Sallie Solis, a CSUB graduating senior, has mixed emotions about the ceremony being postponed.

“The whole situation is saddening, and disappointing. I’m 47 and commencement was a big deal. I’m grateful at the same time [because] things are way crazy currently. To do a virtual thing would by no means come close to feeling the same nor having close to the same effect. As for coming back another time for a commencement to graduate with others in their time I think would be unfair. I think us graduates earned our commencement and if its set for August or September we deserve to have ours. I think our grads are more than deserving of the moment in our own commencement time,” Solis said.

Information regarding the postponed spring 2020 commencement ceremony will be emailed to graduates as soon as it becomes available.

No new information has been released since the university’s decision to postpone the spring 2020 commencement ceremony on March 17. The postponement was announced shortly after CSUB declared a state of emergency.

CSUB administration is listening keenly to the voice of the students when making a final decision on commencement to celebrate the Class of 2020.