Hold an In-Person Graduation for Simmons University Class of 2021

Hold an In-Person Graduation for Simmons University Class of 2021

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Graciellla Rios Ortega started this petition to Simmons University

College graduation is supposed to be a monumental and exciting moment in the academic career of any college student. I am sure that when we first arrived on campus, no one could have predicted the chaotic and unprecedented events of COVID-19's hold on 2020 and 2021. What is even more devastating was that the Simmons University Class of 2020 was forced to cut their senior years short and go home with no ceremony in sight; they were promised that the university would plan for them to have some sort of ceremony in 2021, which has recently come to light as being an exclusively virtual ceremony. Many members of the Class of 2020 have echoed the same sentiment: they waited nine months with hope and optimism to only have their hearts shattered at the news that their commencement would be entirely virtual. Now, the Class of 2021, the class that has gone an entire year taking virtual classes, is getting next to no recognition for their achievements and accomplishments throughout this pandemic (and their college careers). 

I myself am a member of the Class of 2021, and I was very optimistic that with the rise in vaccines being available for people and the widespread availability of COVID-19 tests that the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 at Simmons University would have an in-person graduation, where perhaps two guests could come and see them graduate and walk the stage. I was also looking forward to watching my friends walk the stage and graduate as well. We received an email from Richard Voos in January, that told us the reality of our graduation: completely virtual. Recently, students have seen announcements after announcements that colleges in close proximity are having commencement in person. First, it was Northeastern, then quickly came Boston University, Suffolk, Bentley, UMass Amherst, Plymouth State University, and the University of NH. It is extremely frustrating to see these large universities, universities with much larger student populations and many more COVID-19 case spikes throughout the 2020-2021 school year, receive an in-person graduation for both the Class of 2020 AND the Class of 2021. 

The reason we were given for our inability to have an in-person graduation was said to be "to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and keep our community as safe as possible." I unequivocally agree with this statement, and my possible solutions below may hold an answer to this. I appreciate the efforts of the governing body of Simmons University, but I think that they should strongly consider this option as an alternative. Their original decision (as stated in the Simmons Voice: https://simmonsvoice.com/11526/news/commencement-2021-will-be-virtual-according-to-an-email-from-administration/ noted that the decision was made based on the pandemic at the time in January, which was much worse than right now. While Richard Voos said that in-person commencement brings 4-5000 people together, the option of having groups graduate at specific times, no guests (having guest live stream), and only doing undergraduates. You only graduate from undergrad ONCE. With Massachusetts guidelines getting better, allowing 500 people inside venues, I am sure Simmons could find a way to give the classes of 2021 and 2021 what they deserve.

Possible ideas of hosting an in-person graduation would be to host commencement at Fenway Park. Suffolk University and Northeastern University have announced that they will be hosting their commencement ceremonies at Fenway Park, as well as live streaming them. Suffolk University and Northeastern University hold a much larger graduating body, thus is it possible for Simmons to hold one as well. Fenway Park has the ability to safely accommodate the graduating class of 2021 as well as live stream our graduation. Another idea is to hold our commencement ceremony at a field, such as our home field, Daily field. Boston University will be hosting their commencement ceremony at their home field, Nickerson Field. The perks of an outdoor ceremony are that it is an open space with good ventilation and we have room to distance ourselves from one another. 

By holding an in-person graduation ceremony, safety measurements will be taken. Students and administrators should take a COVID test 24-72 hours before commencement and provide a negative test. If students plan on traveling into Massachusetts, they can either quarantine themselves for 10 days, prior to graduation or provide a negative 24-72 hours before graduation. For graduates who are unable to attend the in-person graduation, they will be given the option to attend virtually, with the help of live streaming our graduation. 

I know this petition may be coming out a little too late, with our planned graduation almost two months away, but it is important to note that other universities with 1000+ graduates are putting in the time and work to make their graduation possible. As for Simmons, a small university, our graduation can be possible in person thanks to our small graduating size and intense safety measures we have been taking on our campus.

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At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!