OPINION: A senior’s thoughts on an unconventional commencement

For the past couple of months, I, like many graduating seniors at the University of Indianapolis, have been awaiting the school’s decision regarding the 2021 commencement ceremony format. I had so many questions about this. Would there be a traditional commencement ceremony? Would it be virtual? Would it be in-person, but with limited guests? Considering the many uncertainties out there, I was curious about what UIndy would do for its seniors, if anything. 

Some of those questions were answered when the Commencement Planning Committee sent out an email on March 3 saying that there would be a commencement ceremony. However, this will not be a typical three-hour ceremony with everyone sitting in the hot sun. Instead, there will be a commencement parade, and the class of 2020 is invited to celebrate, too, the email said. 

As a graduating senior, I think this is a fun alternative to the traditional commencement ceremony. According to the email, the parade will include a drive-through experience that allows graduates to have friends and/or family in the car, with many ways to celebrate along the parade route. To me, this sounds a lot better than sitting in black gowns and baking in the sun for hours, or inside a hot gym as everyone’s name is slowly called, one by one. I do not want to sit through a three-hour long ceremony with a ton of people I don’t even know. My high school had 500 students in my graduating class, and that ceremony was more than two hours long and incredibly boring. I would much rather parade around in a car with my closest family and friends, with the nice addition of air conditioning. 

At a traditional ceremony, you sit until your name is called. However, at this commencement parade, there will be live music performances, a DJ and a virtual photo booth, according to the email. Each of these things makes this event seem more and more appealing to me because it allows us to interact with our closest family and friends and have a relaxing, no-stress event.

To give us the hint of a traditional ceremony, at the end of the parade route, we still get to walk across the stage and receive our diplomas, according to the email. This little gesture gives us the feeling of a traditional commencement ceremony while still adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. A celebratory parade is an easy way to stay socially distant and keep ourselves, friends and family as safe as possible. This significantly lowers the number of people I will come in contact with since I will only be around the people in my car. 

In addition to the parade, the email said that many academic departments are planning smaller events to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduates. I think this is also a great addition to the parade. The university and its departments are doing the best that they can under the circumstances we are in. And honestly, that sounds a lot more fun than a normal ceremony. 

The class of 2021 should be grateful for this opportunity to celebrate our graduation. Unlike the class of 2020, we won’t have to wait until a year after we’ve graduated to celebrate. I am thankful to have any sort of celebration at all, and I think a celebratory parade is a great way to do this. The class of 2020 at UIndy was only given a virtual slideshow presentation, so I think this is a step up.

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