RESCHEDULE THE UOW APRIL 2020 GRADUATIONS

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Dear Professor Wellings,  

RE: CANCELLATION OF UOW's APRIL 2020 GRADUATION CEREMONIES

This open letter is sent on behalf of the University of Wollongong's (UOW) cohort of students who were scheduled to attend a graduation ceremony in April 2020.

We understand and respect, given the current pandemic circumstances and the advice of medical professionals, UOW’s decision not to hold the scheduled graduation ceremonies in April 2020.  However, we do not understand UOW’s decision to cancel these graduations and replace them with a ‘celebratory event.’

We are cognisant that the current situation in response to COVID-19 is uncharted territory for all parties.  However, in this time of uncertainty, we as graduating students expected the ceremonies to be postponed to a later date when the risks associated with COVID-19 subside. UOW’s decision to cancel the April graduation ceremonies, collectively, is disappointing for the graduating students, as well as their families and friends.

We have been advised the April 2020 graduation ceremonies will at this stage be replaced with a ‘celebratory event’.  It is understood by the graduating students that this event will not be in the form of a formal graduation ceremony.  If this is in fact the case, the graduating students are left feeling both disappointed and insulted.

It is our view that if UOW is prepared to allocate time and money towards a ‘celebratory event’ at a later date, then UOW should simply postpone the graduation ceremonies to a later date.

As UOW would no doubt recognise, a student’s graduation day is a fantastic and memorable achievement shared between academic colleagues, family and friends. To deny UOW’s graduates of this experience sends a clear message that ultimately these graduating students are not worth the same recognition and celebration afforded to graduates before them and future UOW graduates.

UOW prides itself on being a dynamic and global institution catering to people from all walks of life and is ranked number 1 amongst NSW universities for student and employer satisfaction.  It is not only disappointing but also surprising to receive the news of UOW’s archaic response to the current pandemic.  

Based on the information available at this time, UOW is not following the precedent set by other universities across Australia, including but not limited to:

i)              University of Sydney;

ii)            University of Technology Sydney; and

iii)          Notre Dame.

These institutions above are maintaining order and demonstrating fairness to their graduating students (both domestic and international), families, friends and sponsors by postponing the scheduled graduation ceremonies to a later date.  This decision of other universities demonstrates respect for their students who wish to celebrate this hard-earned achievement at a formal graduation ceremony.  If UOW wishes to maintain its number 1 ranking for student satisfaction among NSW universities, we urge UOW to postpone our graduation ceremonies, not cancel them. 

The graduating students have worked extremely hard over many years, the majority of whom have paid approximately $40,000 to $50,000 in order to complete their university degrees.  Depriving UOW’s graduates of a formal graduation ceremony after years of hard work and perseverance is simply not good enough. 

UOW would understand that many students have put their lives on hold and a large number of students (both international and domestic) have relocated away from their loved ones and support networks to pursue a quality education at UOW.  We have sacrificed family celebrations, having our own families, social outings, holidays, full-time work and our mental health.  We persevered through these challenging times with the knowledge that on our graduation day, we will be able to reflect on these times and know all of our sacrifices were worth it.  The anticipated overwhelming feeling of self-satisfaction and happiness on our graduation day was the motivation that allowed many of us to push through our final year of university.

UOW’s graduating students deserve recognition at a formal graduation ceremony in which we are able to have our names and our accomplishments announced in front of our academic colleagues, tutors and family members.  We deserve to walk onto the stage before all of these people in our royal blue gown and our trencher or Tutor bonnets to accept our well-deserved congratulations.

It is unfair and unjust knowing that every single graduating student before and after us will have the privilege of experiencing a formal graduation ceremony. Whilst the current pandemic is being labelled as a once in a 100 years event, this graduation ceremony is for the majority of UOW’s students, a once in a lifetime experience.  It is devastating that UOW is stripping its students from their right to experience a graduation ceremony due to an unforeseeable event that is completely outside the control of us as students. 

Amongst the graduating students are medical professionals who will be working through this pandemic; lawyers who will be assisting in creating policy and legislation to respond to this pandemic; teachers who will be reassuring and teaching our students during this pandemic; and psychologists who will be counseling people through the aftermath of this pandemic. 

We understand there are a number of logistical issues in rescheduling a large scale event.  We understand that UOW’s annual calendar is jam-packed with events year in and year out and that rescheduling a week’s worth of ceremonies is no easy task.  We as graduating students, in addition to our family and friends who know how important this event is to us, are willing to volunteer our time and resources to re-organise the ceremonies. 

The current restriction on events being held with more than 100 people attending can and will be overcome.  Schedule more frequent ceremonies with less students.  Restrict our guests and let them watch via video link.  Postpone the ceremonies.  But please, do not cancel our graduation ceremonies.  If UOW can meet the requirements to hold a ‘celebratory event' for the graduating students, there is absolutely no reason why this should not be done in the way of a formal graduation ceremony. 

We understand UOW's decision to cancel the graduation ceremonies was not taken lightly. However, it appears it was the easy way out.  By choosing to cancel rather than postpone our ceremonies, it is an inherent disservice to us, our tutors, UOW sponsors and future UOW students. 

We sincerely hope that UOW seriously re-considers the decision to cancel our graduation ceremonies.

We look forward to receiving a response.

The April 2020 Graduating Students