By Christian Loeffler
On Saturday, April 4, students received an email from Fr. Paul Taylor stating that Commencement would be postponed until the 2020 homecoming weekend. In an email distributed on Wednesday, April 29 by John Smetanka, Vice President of Academic Affairs, students were given more details about the event scheduled for Sunday, September 27. Some students, however, had questions about the rationale behind this rescheduling.
Taylor explained that Commencement was moved to homecoming weekend in hopes that the Saint Vincent community can “safely gather again in a large group to celebrate the Class of 2020.”
Taylor stated that waiting until the fall was the best option. He noted that “with the amount of change” students and graduating seniors have experienced this semester, “the last thing” the college wants to do is move the Commencement date for a second time.
“With announcing updates throughout April, we wanted to provide as much advanced notice as possible to our graduates and their families and loved ones so that as many people as possible are able to attend,” Taylor explained. “We understand that there will never be one date that would work for every person. While we wish that was the case, it is simply not realistic.”
Taylor said he hopes that even with many graduates beginning “first jobs or graduate programs,” combining Commencement and homecoming into one weekend will “fit better into people’s schedules” and “eliminate the potential need for them to return on separate weekends to take part in both events.”
Alex Morgan, graduating senior, stated that he will be attending homecoming to see the football team, revisit friends, and take part in graduation.
“I think no matter when they scheduled it, there was going to be consequences,” said Morgan.
Morgan explained that having Commencement on homecoming weekend works particularly well as it prevents needing to make trips to two separate events. He also said it gives graduates who live far from campus more of an option to stay with a friend over the weekend to help enable the long travel.
“We all need to keep in mind that no matter when [Commencement] is [or] where it is, we get to have one, and I think that's most important.” - Maria Fetty
Maria Fetty, graduating senior, said she also plans on attending homecoming and graduation this year as a chance to catch-up with friends and “finish out the year” that she was unable to, but also expressed concerns with how the weekend may run.
While Fetty said she understood the decision to push Commencement off until homecoming due to uncertainties moving forward, she noted that “other options could have been considered” and that she would have “liked to know what those [options] were before they announced it."
Fetty said that a poll to get student perspective could have pushed decision-makers in a different direction or confirm what they already knew.
Fetty, who said she would have preferred graduation in August, also expressed a concern that the Steelers might have gotten “precedent over graduation.”
“I understand the reasons to why they might; there's deals there with the Steelers and with the college, but also as a college you have a duty to your students and we’re the ones who go to school there for four years,” Fetty said. “We pay to go to school there, we take our classes, we work hard. If the Steelers were a precedent over us, I do think that's a problem.”
Taylor said the training camp “was not a factor in [their] decision.”
“As I mentioned, our decision to hold Commencement in September is to give us more time for the circumstances surrounding this pandemic to become clearer,” Taylor stated.
Fetty said that her biggest concern for Commencement is parking. Normally, she said, the lots used by non-senior undergraduates would be vacant, but those lots will now be filled by students and homecoming guests as well.
“Where are our families going to park?” she said. “Are we going to make them walk super far to attend our graduation?”
She also had concerns that having Commencement during homecoming weekend might take away from the graduating seniors having a special event of their own as it might “get lost” in the other events of homecoming.
Taylor stated that while Commencement will be held on Homecoming Weekend, he can assure that “it will not be an auxiliary event.”
“As we continue our planning, our focus remains on providing an atmosphere and a celebration that our students deserve and that they would have experienced had we been able to hold commencement this May,” he said.
Taylor also referred to the “special Friday evening event” for the class of 2020, which has yet to be revealed.
“I think no matter when they scheduled [Commencement], there were going to be consequences.” - Alex Morgan
Despite her concerns, Fetty said she was glad that the school was “cognizant” of students wanting a graduation ceremony, as many other schools have decided on a complete cancellation.
“We all need to keep in mind that no matter when it is [or] where it is, we get to have one, and I think that's most important,” stated Fetty.
“We hope that every one of our graduates from the Class of 2020 are able to be with us in September to celebrate their accomplishments as we recognize their dedication and commitment to SVC and to each other, despite such an unexpected conclusion to their academic career on campus,” said Taylor.