By: Kate Luce
This year’s commencement will be unlike any other. The plans have been finalized and are getting set in motion for 2020 and 2021 graduates. In return, some students have mixed feelings about the plans.
This year, commencement will take place in the parking lot behind the Student Activities Center on Wednesday, May 12 at 10 a.m. While other places for commencement were looked into, hosting the ceremony on campus allows for more control of factors.
“The Student Activities Center parking lot provides a uniquely branded space with IUSB etched into the limestone and the Titan banners on the light poles. That is certainly something we haven’t been able to offer when presenting Commencement at the University of Notre Dame,” Moira Dyczko, director of Alumni Relations and Campus Ceremonies, said.
In addition, the ceremony will not allow visitors. With the safety of the community in mind, the decision was made with the Medical Response Team. In addition, IU South Bend’s commencement is keeping St. Joseph County Health Department’s COVID-19 restrictions in mind, which currently are 50 people or less. Changes to this are unlikely.
“Even if infection rates in communities across Indiana decline, large gatherings on campuses increase the risk of infection for everyone. IU’s campuses have been among the safest places in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic because of our robust mitigation testing program, which helps us quickly identify and address any increase in cases among students, faculty and staff. The best way to ensure a safe, in-person commencement celebration for our graduates is to operate within the same, controlled environment that has allowed IU to safely keep its campuses open since the fall,” Dyczko said.
A recent survey sent to graduates showed that about 90% of 2021 graduates who responded said they would be interested in attending commencement. 80% of 2020 graduates who responded said they would attend.
If every graduate from 2020 and 2021 were to attend, over 2,000 people would be there. Dyczko said while this might not be likely, the ceremony is set to last around two hours.
Just a few weeks ago, the Student Government Association broke the news about the decisions on commencement.
“As a 2020 graduate myself, I empathize greatly with the disappointment that other students are feeling. I’m a first-generation college student, and my parents have been my strongest supporters over the last four years. It hurts that they won’t be able to be there in person cheering me on as I receive my degree. However, I do understand why IU made the decision that it did. COVID has disrupted so much and forced all of us to make difficult decisions, and I think this is the best one they could have made to give students the opportunity to experience commencement without taking too many risks,” Kayla Isenbletter, president of SGA, said.
While there was not much the SGA could do to help ease some of the disappointment felt by students, they released a statement empathizing with students and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity for recognition.
“I encourage students to keep reaching out with concerns and questions as they arise throughout the next month or so. The SGA can’t promise to get the outcome that we would like to see as students, but we can promise to be a source for reliable and transparent information and to advocate those positions to the administration,” Isenbletter said.
In all, graduates have mixed feelings about this unprecedented commencement. While some are disappointed, others are just unsure of how to feel. Criticisms are with the location, no guests being allowed and the day the event is being held.
Many are sparking the conversation on social media. Lexi Benhart, elementary education major, was one upcoming graduate who sparked the conversation on Facebook. Her post garnered over 70 comments, and she is feeling disappointed about commencement.
“I’m extremely disappointed in how IUSB is choosing to go forward with commencement. It feels like an anticlimactic ending to the years I’ve spent pursuing further education at IUSB. I do not plan to attend which is extremely disappointing as it is something I have dreamed of for as long as I can remember, but at this time it is not worth it to me to go. Looking at the facts, it’s a ceremony that is being held on a Wednesday morning in a parking lot. Not only will my family not be able to attend, with the ceremony being held at this time, they won’t be able to watch virtually either as they will be working. The COVID testing has also influenced my decision not to attend. I am very fortunate to already have a job immediately upon finishing my classes and with all of the requirements to attend, I would have to take too much time off. Quite honestly, this commencement feels like an afterthought and I truly feel it is disrespectful to the efforts students have made to get to this point in their educational journey,” Benhart said.
“This is still a big milestone for me, and regardless of how it is carried out, I still want to be recognized so right now I am planning on attending the commencement ceremony. I am a little disappointed in the location and the restriction of guests. Not to harshly criticize or draw too many comparisons, but I think there are plenty of nice outdoor venues in South Bend where we could hold the ceremony and allow for at least the parents to attend as guests. My parents can’t call off work to watch a live stream, so they and a lot of other family members will really be missing out. I would honestly be fine with delaying the ceremony a little longer to allow for the accommodation of guests, just so it feels more memorable,” Shelby Perkins, social work major, said.
“I plan to attend [commencement], hesitantly. I feel like it is not very well-put-together considering other commencements that are taking place with other school corporations in our area and in the IU system … IU is planning to have their commencement in the stadium and on a Saturday, so at least friends and family can watch it. Even, Ivy Tech will be at Four Winds Field. It feels like it was last minute, put together without much consideration,” Chloe Wigent, criminal justice major, said.
Wigent points out her disappointment comes from the time and location of the ceremony. With time, she brings up that many graduates might not be able to attend because of work. In addition, friends and family might not be able to watch the live stream with commencement being held on a Wednesday.
The SGA wants to hear from graduates. While they cannot guarantee that there is much they can change, they want to provide transparent information and advocate on behalf of students to the administration. To voice questions, comments and concerns, email StuGov@iusb.edu.
Now is also the time to reserve tickets and order commencement apparel. Visit commencement.iusb.edu, to stay up to date on the latest updates.