When West Virginia University announced that in-person commencement would resume during a campus conversation webinar Feb. 18, many spring 2021 graduates were relieved to return to a “normal” end to their education.
The University shut down almost a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, moving all classes to a virtual format, and announced that the spring 2020 commencement ceremony would be virtual with hopes to have an in-person ceremony in December.
At the time, many students and their families didn’t view COVID-19 as a threat and took to petitioning online to move the ceremony back in-person to give graduates their deserved recognition.
Kyle Kalomeris, a health informatics information management graduate in the class of 2020, shared a petition that reached more than 3,000 signatures, only for the University to stay firm on its decision.
“Looking back at it now… they did make the right call in my eyes,” Kalomeris said.
Since March 2020, more than 500,000 people have died due to COVID-19, according to the New York Times. President Joe Biden announced on Monday an order to lower American flags to half-staff until sunset on Feb. 26 in honor of those who have died.
The pandemic has affected people in many different ways, including students who adjusted to virtual learning and canceling events, including seniors' commencement ceremonies.
In-person commencement is more than just a simple graduation for some. It’s recognizing they’re a first-generation student, or they worked all through college and could do it or even they changed their major three times and managed to graduate with something they’re passionate about.
“It’s a really big milestone for most people,” Kalomeris said. “You work so hard these past four years… it’s like that one celebration where you get to say you’re officially done and you’ve done it yourself.”
Kalomeris was a first-generation graduate, graduating in the first class for his major. After a year, he’s found himself a new job and a new life where he’s unsure whether or not he’d return to his alma mater for an in-person ceremony.
At this time, the University announced that commencement will be held May 15-16 at Milan Puskar Stadium for all 2020 graduates and spring 2021 graduates with limited guests.
“While we’re all graduating at different times, we’re all graduating during the same circumstance,” said Mariam Fneiche, a senior human nutrition and foods student.
Fneiche was concerned primarily about mask-wearing. Although the University will require people entering Milan Puskar Stadium to wear masks, she’s unsure whether people will follow this guideline when pictures are being taken and whether social distancing will be taken into consideration.
“With so many people in the stadium, that can get… difficult,” Fneiche said.
At this time, the University has not announced how many guests will be allowed in the stadium during the ceremony. Commencement will take place no matter the weather, but is subject to change based on the current COVID-19 situation.
All graduates who plan on participating in the in-person ceremony are required to register in advance. More information pertaining registration instructions and additional details will be released by the University on March 1.