Op-Eds Opinion

Priest: Graduation won’t be normal, and that’s okay

By Danny Priest

When the news came out last week that traditional commencement ceremonies scheduled for May would not be taking place, I wasn’t caught off guard.

Pretty much everyone knew this was coming. COVID is far worse now than it was months ago when the class of 2020 was unable to have any sort of graduation at all.

While it’s disheartening, I’d encourage those reading this column to think beyond me, a member of the class of 2021.

Please, don’t feel bad for me. I promise you I will be okay. If I get the chance to have a small graduation with just those in my Communications/Sports Journalism major, great. If not, we’ll be all right.

As a matter of fact, I think a small ceremony with just your peers in your major would be pretty cool and a bit more personal than a regular graduation. I’ll digress for now, as we’ll see what happens in regards to that moving forward

Getting back to cancellation of the traditional thing, I felt bad for my parents–and for all the parents and guardians connected to members of the class of 2021.

Watching your child walk across the stage is something parents look forward to for so long – believe me my mom has told me – and it’s truly a shame that they are losing that traditional graduation moment.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it is the world we live in right now. Still, in times like these, I like to think people like myself have it all right in regards to the college experience.

Being a senior, I’ve got friends on campus. I have people I trust, I live in an apartment style setting and I can manage a COVID college lifestyle all right. Is this an ideal way to spend your final year of college? Absolutely not.

But, in a situation such as this one, you have to find the positives where you can. It definitely could be worse. The fact that we are even on campus is a win in itself.

I look at people in other situations in comparison to me, and it seems really hard.

The class of 2024 in particular is a class I feel for. I mean, what a way to start off your college experience.

Springfield College as it exists right now is not the Springfield College I know. Not even close.
Last year, I joined the other newspaper editors on a trip to California for a journalism conference at the tail end of February into the beginning of March.

We really beat the buzzer with that one. People in the airport had on masks, San Francisco was in a state of emergency when we were there and back home in Massachusetts the BioGen conference was becoming the first super spreader of COVID in the United States.

Almost immediately after we returned, life shut down. Looking back now, I can say with complete certainty that was my last “normal” week I’d experience as a college student.

It was the last time I saw campus as what it normally is – a place filled with energy, with people who want to socialize and a community that loves to spend time with one another.

So, I may not get to have a graduation, but at least I once knew what this campus was like. I had the real Springfield College experience for two-and-half years.

These freshmen won’t have that experience from the jump and I feel for them. Half the campus is closed, they’re lucky if they have a few in person classes and making new friends will be extremely difficult.

Going to class and coming back to your eight-by-ten room every night can be difficult. I can only imagine the added struggle of doing that now with the way campus functions.

That sort of issue goes on and on and hits every age group. For high school seniors, they are losing out on a number of things from proms and graduations, to senior nights and proper college visits.

For middle schoolers and below, Zoom is definitely not a proper way to get an education. As a 21-year old college senior, I have a difficult time paying attention to Zoom – I can only imagine how difficult that is for them.

Not to mention that teachers too – this situation certainly is a monumental challenge for them. If you haven’t already, thank your professors because I am sure spending the days teaching to black Zoom boxes is not the optimal way to perform your profession.

As much as we as students don’t enjoy the virtual experience, it’s probably harder and more difficult for educators at Springfield College and across the country.

The bottom line is this.

I’m not going to be bitter that our graduation isn’t happening. We might even get mini graduations, which could be cool, who knows.

Coronavirus sucks, but there are far worse things out there than not getting to have a formal graduation ceremony. The near 500,000 deaths COVID is responsible for would back this claim.

Plain and simple, this virus has affected people of all ages in very different and real ways and that situation remains ongoing.

For all the damage it has done and the ways it has inflicted some form of inconvenience on people of all ages, I don’t want to sit here and feel bad that graduation was cancelled.

We’ll carry on, just like everyone else has too. On top of that, do yourself a favor and try to find the positives in whatever situation you’re in. Even if that feels impossible, it’s worth it.

Photo: Jack Margaros/The Student

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