CSULB students share their thoughts on the uncertainty behind commencement for the class of 2021

After dropping out of school to care for family shortly into her college career, Julia Smith, a fourth-year majoring in both English and creative writing, has been waiting seven years to walk across a stage and experience a traditional graduation ceremony.

But as Smith applies for graduation with the Oct. 15 deadline approaching, she and many others face uncertainty as to whether Long Beach State will have an in-person graduation for the class of 2021, following the decision to continue with remote learning next semester.

“I’ve dreamed of my graduation day for years,” Smith said. “Graduation is the pinnacle for how we can measure our success and the effort we have put into our academic journey.”

Smith, a transfer student from Fullerton College, said that she was disappointed that her time on campus was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When I found out that the spring semester was going to be online, I was legitimately depressed for a solid week,” Smith said. “[But] I get it, this is for the greater good, it’s important to be mindful and respectful of our community members.”

But as a soon-to-be graduate, Smith said she feels it is only natural to feel frustration and disappointment because of all the hard work and tribulations students endure in order to achieve their graduation goals.

“We have all dealt with a plethora of trials and struggles within our own lives,” Smith said. “To not receive a graduation, it is very discouraging.”

Marilyn Parra, a fourth-year journalism major, said that while she is excited to be graduating next semester, she feels that the uncertainty surrounding the class of 2021’s commencement ceremony has been frustrating.

“It’s kind of hard to be excited,” Parra said. “With college, all that work you’ve done for four years, you’ve done yourself, and it’s stressful and you want a day celebrated for you.”

If a traditional ceremony is not plausible by next semester, Parra said she feels that CSULB should consider having a commencement drive-by with faculty holding posters to celebrate its graduates.

She added that the lack of an in-person event does not invalidate the accomplishment of completing a college degree, though “it would be nice to have something for you, like a celebration for the graduates.”

“I just hope that the school is really working to do a normal commencement,” Parra said.

Veronica Romero, a fourth-year finance major, said she understands why CSULB would postpone the class of 2021’s graduation ceremony due to growing concerns of the coronavirus but still feels disappointed.

“I feel very sad because I looked up to his point since high school,” said Romero, who is also a first generation college student. “I feel like all that effort went in vain.”

Romero also said she felt that having her family watch her walk the stage would serve as motivation for her cousins and siblings to follow in her footsteps.

“Because there’s no commencement, yeah I’m still graduating, but it’s not the same,” Romero said. “The visual is not going to be there, it’s only going to be the idea of me graduating.”

She added that she would like to see CSULB provide accommodations for graduates, including a virtual ceremony for those who prefer that.

“For the rest of us that don’t want virtual, make that effort so that [we] can have that commencement,” Romero said. “I know a lot of people probably worked harder than I did and are first-gen as well. I’m sure they’ve been looking forward to this moment.”

Fourth-year journalism major Faith Petrie said she feels indifferent about the possibility of having a virtual ceremony like the class of 2020 had last semester in place of a traditional graduation.

“As a transfer student, I don’t think I ever got to have that connection to the campus as some may have had if they started their first year of college there,” Petrie said. “At the end of the day, I feel like graduation is really for show. I just need to know I have my diploma.”

Petrie said she feels that campus administration should not hold an in-person graduation due to coronavirus concerns.

“I don’t think it’s possible, especially if we maintain the trajectory we’ve been on, just as a nation,” Petrie said, referring to the continuous rise in coronavirus cases in the United States.

As graduation rapidly approaches, Petrie, who is also minoring in women, gender and sexuality studies, said she feels nervous.

“It’s kind of a scary thing because you work all this time just to then get kicked out into the world,” Petrie said. “It’s scary and exciting.”

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