In an email to students on April 23, the University administration announced their plans to honor the Class of 2020 with both a digital celebration in May and an in-person commencement ceremony at a later date.
The announcement comes as many universities are cancelling their commencements or moving them to an online platform due to the coronavirus.
Though a commencement event cannot occur until public health and government officials announce that it is again safe to hold large gatherings, the University wants to ensure that the end of the Class of 2020’s time at Seton Hall does not go unrecognized, according to the email.
“We are extremely proud of all of our students and we want to honor this important life milestone at such an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history,” University spokesperson, Laurie Pine said. “While we cannot do this in person yet, a committee with wide University representation, including students, is planning myriad ways for the Class of 2020 to be recognized.”
One of those recognition opportunities will occur from May 18 to May 24, when the University will host a “celebratory digital takeover” of their webpages and social media accounts in order to honor the senior class. The goal is for graduates, their families and alumni to send in memories and celebratory posts.
Additionally, a “commencement website” has been set up for the Seton Hall community to celebrate.
“We invite Pirates throughout the world to share their submissions and show everyone what it means to be #SetonHallStrong,” Pine said in an email.
Pine made it clear that an in-person commencement is still the goal, though it is unclear when such an event can be held.
“We remain committed to celebrating commencement with our graduates in person when it is safe to do so,” Pine said. “That in-person celebration may be later than any of us hoped, but we are planning for the day we can gather together, as one community, to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our Class of 2020.”
Graduating senior biology major Brittany Perumpail and her family plan to participate in the takeover, but worry about technological challenges of an online event and feel that it does not sufficiently celebrate the Class of 2020.
“We will [participate], but most of my family isn’t tech savvy so this will be difficult,” Perumpail said. “I want to celebrate this moment with all my friends, family, classmates, professors and other faculty members that have helped and supported me to get to this graduation.”
Senior sociology major Kendra Campbell will be unable to participate in the online takeover, but hopes her classmates take advantage of the event.
“I hope other students participate so they can feel some sort of recognition for all of their hard work,” Campbell said.
She also worries that despite reassurances from administration, a commencement may not be possible in a time of financial stress for the university.
“As per President Nyre’s most recent email, the University is struggling financially, so I hope that a future in-person commencement will be feasible,” Campbell said.
Senior Taina Vasquez, who would have walked at commencement in May to receive her degree in criminal justice, is also unsure of whether the online event will properly commemorate her class’ time at Seton Hall.
“It’s hard to say whether the University planned an effective way to honor my class, considering the limited options with the ongoing pandemic,” Vasquez said. “I think it’s great that graduation wasn’t cancelled… but I don’t see the reason for the digital takeover.”
Senior journalism major Ashley Phillips feels that no online substitute can replace an in-person celebration.
“Holding a virtual commencement is no comparison to hearing your name be called and walking across that graduation stage,” Philips said. “We deserve the cheers and claps. We deserve to celebrate among each other and our families.”
Daniel O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.