By Justin Rimpi
President Christopher Capuano, in an email blast to students Friday afternoon, said graduation will be virtual this year, the first in FDU history. At the moment, there is no plan for an in-person graduation.
The reaction was swift.
Within an hour of Capuano’s decision, a petition on change.org had been created for the FDU administration “to consider postponing the ceremony to a later date (and at a different location if necessary) rather than canceling or moving the ceremony online.”
The petition had over 1,500 signatures at the time of publication with the numbers ticking up by the second.
This decision was in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and CDC guidelines that prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people for 8 weeks.
Capuano wrote in the email:
“Unfortunately, the continuing nature of this outbreak means that our University Commencement cannot take place as scheduled. This is a particularly painful decision for me,” Capuano said. “I know very well how much this event means to all our graduates who have worked so hard to fulfill their goals and dreams. At the same time, considering the situation and considering the need for people to plan accordingly, we must make a decision based on what we know now and so, unfortunately, we will have to cancel the live Commencement event scheduled to take place at MetLife Stadium on May 18.”
“However, this doesn’t mean we will not celebrate our graduates. We are considering various options now for a virtual ceremony that will feature the appropriate pomp and circumstance and recognize all graduates individually.”
Rutgers has canceled commencement but said it is looking to reschedule commencement at a date and time when it will be safe to do so. At the time of publication, Seton Hall and Montclair State had not made a decision on whether they will postpone commencement, or cancel it entirely.
FDU did not choose a wait-and-see approach.
“I’m still not entirely sure what ‘No Commencement’ means,” said senior Joshua German. “Throughout my academic career, I’ve been looking forward to crossing the stage and everything that comes with a traditional ceremony. I won’t know what it means until there’s a set alternative plan.”
This decision was a gut punch to seniors this writer that has been looking forward to this day since arriving on campus for their first day of classes in August 2016.
Being able to walk across the stage, with the gathering of all your friends and family, is a seminal moment in the lives of college students.
The virtual graduation will not be the same.
“I understand that our health is important, but I don’t think a virtual graduation ceremony will have the same impact as an in-person ceremony,” senior Bradley Amengual said. “I have worked hard to get to this point and I deserve to be recognized for that hard work. I prefer if they postpone it until late this summer or early fall.”
Hearing your name called in front of thousands of people, and putting a cap on years of hard work, is the only appropriate way to close the book on an undergraduate education.
“It’s disheartening to know that the class of 2020 is not getting what they’ve worked so hard for,” senior Lorernzo Martinez said. “Many struggled to just be here at FDU so that they would have the opportunity to walk on that stage and have that feeling of satisfaction, a feeling that can be experienced no other way.”
The cancellation of an in-person graduation did not come as a shock to many. With each passing day, the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc all over the world.
What is shocking though is the fact that students will have one of the crowning moments of their FDU career stripped away from them, and what is in its place is standing in front of a computer as the final act of their FDU experience.
“I knew college was coming to an end but I didn’t think it would be this fast,” senior Natalia Toby said. “As a first generation graduate, walking across that stage and having my parents there meant the world to me.”
“Having no commencement really hurts. I know it’s something that had to happen for public health reasons, but it’s an experience and memory I will never get to have,” senior Samantha Hart said. “Fifty years from now, I won’t be able to talk about my college graduation at MetLife stadium and now, in the future whenever I look back on my college career, I’ll always feel like there’s a mental asterisk almost because I didn’t get to walk across the stage. I know it’s the safest thing to do so I understand but it’s still really really hard to process.”
Picture from FDU petition on change.org