On Wednesday, President Jim Ryan sent an email to the class of 2020 announcing that Final Exercises will take place May 28-30 of next year, the weekend after the class of 2021 will take their final walk across the lawn.
A fourth year who requested to remain anonymous was disappointed by this news. “The University will try its best to make the 2020 graduation ceremony important, but nothing can change the fact that 1. The ceremony will take place a year after the Class of 2020 has already graduated and moved on with their lives 2. This ceremony will happen directly after the class of 2021’s ceremony 3. Many families and students will not attend this ceremony because… it’s over a year after the class of 2020 actually graduated and many people will not/cannot celebrate an accomplishment that happened so long ago.” Although this was the only option given the recent spikes in COVID-19 across the nation, there was still a “glimmer of hope” that they would be able to walk the Lawn this Fall. “The only thing we can do now is to remember all the amazing moments we had at UVA and how incredible it truly is that we have graduated from the University of Virginia.”
Another concern raised by fourth year Lizz Bangura was the financial aspect the UVA administration has been neglecting throughout the pandemic. “Now that final exercises are next year—will they cover travel expenses since we’ll no longer already be on Grounds?… and if not —what are they doing monetarily to make up for the resources that we already paid for but are not receiving? What are we being given to show appreciation for our work and/or recognition for our losses?” As a Black out of state student, she feels like the administration has not done enough to support her and people like her through this. “I don’t blame UVa for the cause of the pandemic, but the way they’ve been handling it says a lot about what this institution stands for and believes in.”
Other members of the class of 2020 have made peace with the circumstances. Mike Seay was not surprised Final Exercises were delayed. “The way our country is completely fumbling the COVID-19 response makes me feel like this problem is not going away for a long time, and the public health risks are too great to have all those people come to Charlottesville at once…. I think safety should come first, and I’m already skeptical of how the return to Grounds in the fall is going to go.” To him, he would rather wait a little longer in order to have the true celebration he feels he and his fellow graduates deserve.
There is a worry that members of the class of 2020 will not return to Grounds for Final Exercises. “A lot of our class probably won’t go just because it’s so far out from when we actually graduated (and hopefully we’ll all have jobs by then!)… even though we’re getting Final Exercises, it’s just going to feel so weird and different a year out of school,” said Mary Allen Talley.
Now that a date is set, fourth years and their families can begin to make plans to return. Hopefully all of the class of 2020 will be able to return to Charlottesville to mark the end of their time at the University of Virginia.