The Friar Family and the Friars’ Families: PC Should Allow Senior Students Two Guests to Their May Commencement
By Madeline Morkin ’22
Asst. Opinion Editor
Last spring, colleges everywhere were forced to make the difficult decision to cancel in-person commencement ceremonies for the graduating classes of 2020. Students had worked their entire lives to graduate in front of parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family and friends who had supported them through their educational journeys. Unfortunately, though, the unplanned and worrisome nature of the COVID-19 pandemic denied much of the world of such a possibility.
Most commencements were pushed online in the form of group video calls. The personal acceptance of a well-earned diploma and handshake on stage was no longer an option. Parents, guardians, and students who had worked long hours and saved their money to obtain an education were denied the ability to complete the educational journey in the way that they had originally planned.
In mid-April 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading across the United States. That being said, case numbers are dropping, the number of people who are half or fully vaccinated is going up, state-wide mask mandates are being lifted, and the world is slowly returning to normal. On April 8, the Washington Post released news tarly 20 percent of the United States population had been vaccinated, and on April 18, NPR published that over 50 percent of the country had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
There is outrage as well as excitement regarding the ways in which the country and world have been attempting to return to normal. After over a year of struggling with a lack of social gatherings and physical human connection, some are ready to return to normal while others are still concerned about the fatal and unforeseen effects of COVID-19.
There is no perfect solution to how the world should attempt to return to normalcy, but there are precautions that can still be taken to ensure a more comfortable transition back into what life was like pre-COVID. By wearing masks, social distancing, and remaining outdoors as best as we can in social situations, even while more people become fully vaccinated and worries of COVID-19 begin to become somewhat of an uncomfortable memory, the safety of everyone will be considered and protected to ease this transition back to normalcy.
Providence College has made continuous efforts to aid in this transition, such as informing students of when and how to get vaccinated, developing COVID-19 plans for vaccinated students who are contact-traced by a COVID-19 positive person, and already planning ahead to ensure the certainty of next fall’s in-person classes. That being said, despite much of the world’s efforts to return to normal, Providence College has still denied even the possibility of guest attendance to the senior class commencement.
Unlike last year, seniors will be able to graduate with their classmates. In May, these students will, for the last time, be together (albeit six feet apart) in an outdoor setting. While the College has continuously emphasized the phrase, “You are never alone in Friartown,” there will still be some sense of loneliness at this commencement. One important part of the ceremony will be missing: guests.
Of course, it is not an easy task to cater to the individual wants of every student and family. Although, the general consensus of the senior class is a desire to include some of the women and men, sisters and brothers, friends, and others who have influenced their efforts and abilities to receive their diplomas in May.
PC should consider allowing graduating students two guest tickets to invite these people to their outdoor graduation celebration. By mandating that everyone wear masks both indoors and outdoors during this graduation weekend and providing a socially distanced setup for the ceremony itself, the College could please both the people who desire guest attendance at this year’s in-person graduation and those who do not. In the case that the College allows for such a possibility, it would then be up to each individual student and their families or friends to determine who can attend, if they would like to.
The College has supported these graduating seniors for four years. The 2021 graduating class has been through a lot, especially with PC going fully online last spring and remaining somewhat online this 2020-2021 school year.
By allowing each graduating senior two guests at commencement, the outdoor ceremony would be a more exciting and familiar scene which is well-deserved by such a group of hardworking students whose families and friends have also worked so hard to get them to this point. In doing this, the College would also be reminding students of their emphasis on and support of the Friar Family. There is a way to transition back to reality in a safe and comfortable manner, and this would be a fantastic step as PC moves back to life pre-COVID.