As spring draws nearer, and the weeks of the 2020-2021 academic year draw to a close, graduation is at the forefront of the seniors’ minds. This is especially true this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the possibility of senior week and commencement being canceled or limited in some way.
Last night, March 22, an email was sent from the Fairfield University’s Commencement Committee to the class members and families of the class of 2021, and the long wait for information was over.
“We are balancing the desire to celebrate with the evolving COVID-19 environment and fluid State of Connecticut safety guidelines, as well as the significant behind-the-scenes logistics and vendor management that occurs annually as part of our ceremonies” they open generally.
Fairfield will hold a series of senior experiences from Friday, May 14 through Sunday, May 16. Some of these events will be held in-person but will be scaled appropriately to comply with all state guidelines.
On May 17, Fairfield will shift and hold “academic celebrations” on Bellarmine Lawn.
This will be separated by school and/or department, allowing deans, faculty and students to celebrate together.
Each student will be able to invite a maximum of two guests to their respective celebrations.
Students are then being asked to leave and move off campus directly after their respective ceremonies end.
On Sunday, May 23, Fairfield will hold a virtual Commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. for all undergraduates, with no in-person activity.
“With no travel required, families and friends are encouraged to join the virtual Commencement to celebrate their students’ accomplishments,” the email stated.
Going on to say that more details will be communicated about the senior experience events as well as the virtual commencement ceremony, thorough email and on fairfield.edu/commencement.
For a graduating class that believed nothing would be held, the possibility of having some event, even if they’re not the traditional experience, is an exciting opportunity.
“It’s disappointing to realize that we won’t get to celebrate as one big community, but given the circumstances, I’m glad to see there are plans being made to accommodate,” states Luckario Alcide ‘21.
He goes on to state that “There’s nothing I would love more than to be able to celebrate with my family and friends,” but as most of his friends are different majors most of my friends are different majors and [the] guest limit is two so those are the two biggest bummers.”
Senior Callie Floyd was more positive stating, “I was excited to hear that the University has planned to do something in person for graduation. Although it is not a traditional graduation ceremony and commencement, due to the circumstances I appreciate them doing something at Bellarmine to celebrate,” she continues stating that it will make everyone feel safe and comfortable.
“I think it’s an amazing plan. I’m very upset that I can’t watch my friends walk across the stage and graduate after we’ve taken this long journey together,” Cassie Fraioli ‘21 said, “But at the same time I’m very thankful that Fairfield has kept us together through all of this and is even giving us an opportunity to graduate in person at all.”
She goes on to state that she’s excited there’s a guest ticket option, “I’m also very happy we get two guests because my parents can now watch me graduate and in a way, it’s a graduation for them too! I’m grateful for any positive opportunities in a time like this.”
Senior Rebecca Ruyack is more disappointed about the two guest tickets offered, as though it doesn’t affect her, she’s heard of people with step-parents or more than two parents that feel excluded, “I’m sure it’s very upsetting for some seniors.”
She also notes the issue created when students have more than one major, “The only issue I have is that I have to attend two graduations because I’m a dual major, and the timings are far apart.”
Senior Alaina Moger is one of those students limited by the two guest tickets option. She goes on to state, “It is disrespectful and inconsiderate that students with divorced and with more than two parents/guardians were not thought of. It’s unfair to have to choose between which parents attend graduation.”
She hopes that Fairfield will reconsider and choose to include students like her.
If students in the class of 2021 are looking for more information about graduation, they can head to the Commencement webpage. If there are any further questions not answered on the FAQ page, students are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The class of 2020 also were updated in regards to graduation this week.
A letter was released to them from President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D. on March 22 of 2020, stating, that though they have to cancel graduation, “It is my promise to you that we will hold them, in person, and you will get chance to walk in your caps and gowns and receive your diplomas, and enjoy the experience to the fullest extent possible.”
He continued by saying, “We have a committed team developing plans for how to arrange this, and we will keep you posted as these plans take shape.”
While the class of 2021 received an email detailing graduation plans, the class of 2020 received a link to a survey. One question was asked of them, “As a member of the Class of 2020, which type of Commencement celebration would you be likely to attend?”
The students could then choose from a scale between “Very Likely” to “Definitely Would Not Attend” to the questions “An in-person weekday celebration in May allowing two guests to attend,” and “A private in-person celebration for the Class of 2020 during Alumni Family Weekend in October.”
The survey is open until Friday, March 26.