Montclair State University Plans Outdoor Graduation Ceremonies

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Published July 7, 2020
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The Montclarion
Jillian Wilson received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and believes that the university should postpone graduation until the fall or next spring. Photo courtesy of Jillian Wilson

Montclair State University students who were denied a formal graduation ceremony in the spring due to the coronavirus outbreak, now have the opportunity to attend one of six outdoor commencement ceremony dates. The commencement ceremonies will be held on Montclair State’s Sprague Field starting July 18 through July 23, 2020, for those eligible to graduate.

In order to attend, students will be required to register in advance so the university has time to safely follow the preparation guidelines for the ceremony. Registration opens on Sunday, June 28, and closes on Tuesday, July 7, through an email link.

According to Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan, no more than 500 people are allowed to participate in outdoor graduation ceremonies. Out of those 500 people, each student will be allowed to take two guests unless otherwise specified by Gov. Murphy.

Guidelines that guests are suggested to follow to stay safe during the ceremony include wearing face coverings throughout the entire event, keeping a six-foot distance, sitting at designated areas which will be marked and those who may not be feeling well will not be permitted to enter.

A livestream video of the event will be available for those who cannot attend the outdoor ceremony. The length of the ceremony will take 50 minutes for the graduates to walk across the field and participate in the college graduation.

While the university plans to hold these commencement ceremonies as safely as possible, faculty and staff still have some concerns. The faculty released a letter stating that attending a graduation ceremony is too risky.

“Dear Deans, as educators who have invested deeply in the success of our graduating students, we wish nothing more than to honor their achievements and to celebrate with them and their families; yet we cannot in good conscience participate in in-person commencement exercises at this time,” was stated in the letter for faculty to RSVP for commencement. Several faculty members signed this letter.

Some staff members are required to attend graduation ceremonies as it is written in their job description. But some do not support an event that holds hundreds of people and prompts family members to travel across the state and country as this could be a health risk.

Emily Klein, an associate professor in the department of secondary and special education and currently the master of arts in teaching graduate program coordinator, agrees that it’s too early to conduct a graduation ceremony.

“As I have said, this seems like an unnecessary risk given that we are being asked by public health officials to ‘budget’ the amount of risk we are allotting to certain activities,” Klein said.

While faculty and staff members are worried for the commencement, students are looking forward to it.

Leiloni Braddy received a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking this spring and is thankful that Montclair State is having an in-person graduation ceremony.

“I’m glad that Montclair State didn’t just give us a virtual graduation and called it a day,” Braddy said. “I’m grateful to be having an actual ceremony, but I won’t be surrounded by all of my classmates. We have to wear masks, we can’t hug and cheer like we probably would, but even though we’d be celebrating differently, I am still very excited to attend the ceremony.”

Photo courtesy of Brianna Sturrock

Brianna Sturrock received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and will be attending a graduation ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Brianna Sturrock

Brianna Sturrock received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a student from Australia. She was hoping to receive the “American college graduation” experience.

“I’m thankful something is being held for us to celebrate since we didn’t know if that was something we were actually going to end up getting,” Sturrock said. “However, I do almost wish we’d wait until it can be more normal and safer. I don’t really like that it’s in the middle of July heat and that we can’t be close to our friends due to social distancing.”

Sturrock already registered to attend and is still willing to experience the ceremony, even if it’s different than what she expected.

“I’m all about the safety of course so I appreciate that they are taking those precautions,” Sturrock said. “It is just so frustrating in general that this is how our graduation has to be. But at the end of the day, it’s still a celebration of all our hard work.”

Jillian Wilson received a bachelor’s degree in accounting this past spring and believes that the university should postpone graduation until the fall or next spring.

“I believe that the class of 2020 deserves a graduation, but I don’t think it should be rushed,” Wilson said. “I think that a mid-July graduation with no real heads-up will be really difficult to pull off. I had moved to Texas for the summer to study for my certified public accountant (CPA) since Montclair State gave us no indication when the graduation was going to be occurring, so I thought that it would be in the fall.”

Many other graduates who moved out of state like Wilson will also not be able to attend.

“I’ve had an amazing four years at [Montclair State] and I would really like to have a graduation that represents how much I loved it,” Wilson said.

While this plan is set for now, if the graduation dates need to be pushed later into the summer, graduates will be informed as soon as possible.

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