Endings are weird. They can be happy, sad, go as planned or be completely unexpected. As a senior with months remaining in my undergraduate years, I enter into a period of “last times,” before reaching my “end.”
I have already had my last class in Rowland Hall — or anywhere on campus. I spend my final academic hours as a Raider sitting on my couch on a Zoom call pleading with my cat to leave me alone until my class is over. While my senior year was anything but ordinary, I can reflect on the times spent covering stories on campus before the pandemic.
I love going out to campus events and meetings and telling the stories of our community. Two of my favorite events to cover are the convocation and graduation ceremonies. These events represent the beginning and end of a student’s time at Shippensburg University.
Each year’s convocation ceremony is similar to the one that preceded it. High-ranking university officials welcome students, giving encouraging and inspirational speeches. During my own convocation and all those I have attended since as a reporter, the same story is consistently told.
During the ceremony, the provost stands up, welcomes the new “shipmates,” gives his or her own rendition of a motivational speech and then starts talking about graduation. At this point, the provost holds up a calendar, planner or an image of a calendar projects onto the wall behind them.
“Students, mark [insert a seemingly random Saturday in May four-ish years from now] on your calendar,” the provost says. “Everything you do here at Shippensburg is working toward that moment. Circle that day.”
The provost then explains that this act is used as a form of goal setting and motivation. When we set ourselves these goals, it helps us keep motivated. We can look forward to better times or finally achieving something we have worked at.
I set my eyes and marked my calendar for May 15 — the original graduation date for the class of 2021. But like many other aspects of our senior year, it is gone. Right now, seniors do not have a date to work toward. Officials pushed back the semester, altering the academic schedule and our graduation day.
A message on ship.edu/graduation reads:
“Dear eligible graduate,
Congratulations on coming to the final chapter of this part of your educational journey. We are eager to celebrate your accomplishment. A decision related to a commencement ceremony for academic year 2020-2021 graduates will be made later this spring.
Best of luck as you finish your coursework and requirements. We look forward to celebrating with you.
Thank you for your understanding.”
I understand the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, state and institutional guidelines complicate the planning of large events. But I also understand what it is like for a family to make sacrifices, to work extra hours at a grocery store after a day of classes, to study for tests and to spend thousands of dollars for a degree.
I knew my four years at SU could be difficult at times. But knowing I was working toward a (hopefully) sunny, Saturday afternoon at Seth Grove Stadium where my family would hear my name called out as I walked across the stage in a blue cap and gown served as motivation.
I urge university officials to consider what not having a graduation date does to this senior class and to communicate potential commencement celebration plans as soon as possible. If not for the seniors themselves, but for all of those who helped us get here.