By Haley Bartlett,
CHATTANOOGA— The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga cancels their in-person commencement of the Class of 2020 due to the growing pressures of the novel coronavirus.
UTC sent out the update on July 9 with a post stating “After many discussions between the UTC Executive Leadership Team, other campus leaders, input from medical experts, and due to escalating numbers of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee,” it said, “UTC leadership has made the painful decision to cancel commencement.”
Monica Irizarry, a recent graduate of the Communications department, said that while she understands the reasoning behind cancelling the ceremonies for the safety of everyone, it is still disappointing.
“As a first generation college student, it would’ve felt extremely rewarding to be able to march across the stage, “she said. “Plus, it would’ve meant the world to me if my mother and grandmothers got to see me at a physical graduation especially because the women in my family obviously have not been afforded the same privileges and circumstances as I have.”
Irizarry added that back in March when students were given the opportunity to decide if they wanted to participate in the postponed in-person ceremony, she believes the school only had the option to make students and parents happy. She said she wished they had originally done a virtual gathering.
Jake Moore, another Communcations department graduate said he feels UTC played it safe by not automatically opting for a virtual ceremony.
“I think they did it for the optics, they have a habit of not reading the room, and I think everyone deep down knew an in-person graduation was never going to happen with the amount of cases Chattanooga sees every day,” he said.
Other universities around the nation immediately went with the virtual graduation route including the University of Memphis where they broadcast their online commencement ceremony and later uploaded it.
Universities that opted for the virtual route used platforms such as Zoom to allow for their 2020 class to celebrate their accomplishments. The online ceremonies even started the trend of celebrities sending in congratulating videos to show support for the students.
Public figures from Barack Obama to Ashton Kutcher all came together to celebrate students around the nation during the difficult time amidst stay-at-home orders and lockdowns.
Caroline Williams, a fellow 2020 graduate, stated her frustrations and confusion with UTC’s delay in a decision regarding the commencement.
“I don’t understand why they didn’t follow in suit with other universities and their plans to change graduation,” she said.
Williams added that many people including her own parents had already made arrangements to come into town and booked hotel rooms for the postponed date in August and had wished the university would have come to a decision sooner.
UTC further updated students on July 20 that there will be a virtual graduation held on August 30. The ceremony will include a personalized slide for each graduate. The school will also be compensating those who have purchased caps and gowns with refund details underway.