As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic began to cause rapid changes to the University of Indianapolis’ operations, the university announced on March 18 that the May 2 commencement ceremonies would be postponed. Since then, UIndy has been thinking about how they can utilize technology to make some elements of graduation available to students before they can welcome everyone back to campus to celebrate together, University President Robert Manuel said.
Right now, UIndy is considering everything when it comes to still having graduation in some form, Manuel said. At some point in the future, there will be a physical opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of graduating students.
“It is the most sacred of traditions at the university and we want to make sure we uphold that,” Manuel said. “What that looks like when that occurs, we’re just not sure.”
Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli said she was sad for seniors because graduation is everyone’s favorite time of year because everyone is able to see graduates’ accomplishments that they have worked so hard for.
UIndy recently had a conference call with seniors to hear their thoughts on how the university could move forward with celebrating their accomplishments and how UIndy could do it virtually, Vitangeli said. The university is also looking at whether the May graduation will happen later in the summer or in the fall. In the meantime, the Registrar’s Office will begin mailing diplomas to May graduates starting May 4, depending on the receipt of final grades, Vitangeli said in an email to students on March 27.
“We’re going to continue conversations both with seniors and both with faculty [and] staff across campus and make sure that we can have the best type of celebration possible for our graduates,” Vitangeli said.
One of the ideas that have come from several students following the postponement announcement was having online celebrations in May and June and then having a physical celebration at Homecoming in the fall in a more traditional style, Manuel said.
Everyone understands why the university had to postpone graduation, Vitangeli said. Not having graduation in May is devastating, regardless of whether its undergraduate, graduate or doctoral students, she said.
“It is devastating for all of the graduates who’ve worked so hard… in their program of study and want to celebrate with their friends and celebrate with their families,” Vitangeli said. “…. So it’s shifting your paradigm like we have with everything [else], but it’s still okay to be sad about it.”
Manuel said the most dangerous part of postponing graduation was saying it would only be pushed back a week or two because the university doesn’t know what the restrictions on gatherings would be like at that time.
“…. We need to find a way to make sure that we’re not having to plan something and then cancel it again because of the uncertainties of the virus and we need to make sure that we celebrate the accomplishments of the students, on the other hand,” Manuel said.
Students can be assured that the senior leadership team and the university’s planning commission are all thinking of how the campus can meet under these circumstances, Manuel said. This is the reason why UIndy didn’t cancel graduation and postponed it instead, he said.
“We wanted to make sure that we were intentional in saying ‘We just can’t have this now,’” Manuel said. “We will find a way to have it in person. We will find a way to do it in the community and have it ring as true as any other celebration we’ve had at the university.”
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