Interim College President Kathleen Harring has announced via email that the commencement ceremony and baccalaureate program for the Class of 2020 are set to take place on Oct. 17 and 18 of this year. 

This announcement comes in the wake of the administration’s early April decision to cancel all study abroad programs for the fall with the exception of domestic programs in New York and Washington, D.C. All summer courses have also been moved online, along with the “Through the Red Doors” events and June Advising.

These announcements mark the first snippets of life on campus this fall that the administration has released. The new fall graduation date provides seniors with a concrete plan about when their class will reconvene on campus, a fact that some found incredibly helpful.

“I’d say I’m glad they have set a potential date,” said Patrick Braue ‘20. “It gives me a light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel being the quarantine. It gets me excited, more excited then I have been since this whole thing started.” 

Greta Ohanian ’20, another graduating senior, shared this sentiment.

“Although it’s sad to see it so far away, I’m really happy to have a date to look forward to,” said Ohanian. “I’m also really grateful for what Berg is doing to make sure that the class of 2020 still has a meaningful graduation and possible other senior activities.”

Still others felt bittersweet about the decision.

“Muhlenberg doesn’t have a winter graduation, so as someone who graduated a semester early in January, I was very excited to come back in May to have the ceremony I’d been dreaming about and reconnect with many of my friends in the Class of 2020,” said Haley Hnatuk ’19. “While the college’s decision to postpone graduation until October 2020 was initially heartbreaking to me because currently there is this pervasive sense that everything that I have worked towards or planned for has been postponed, I understand that it is for an important reason – the public health of our entire college community. Additionally, Muhlenberg’s commitment to having an in-person graduation when it is safe to do so, in order to make sure that the entire class of 2020 is eventually able to walk across the stage and receive our diplomas in front of our families, friends and peers, celebrate our academic journeys and get the closure that many of us are seeking, means a lot to me and gives me a distant something to look forward to.”

“While the college’s decision to postpone graduation until October 2020 was initially heartbreaking to me … I understand that it is for an important reason – the public health of our entire college community.”

Some graduating students, though, felt that the announcement left something to be desired.

“I appreciate the administration rescheduling graduating and not just canceling, but I think what I am really missing out on is senior week and senior ball,” said Jenny Silber ‘20. “I see graduation as a celebration for my family, but I miss my friends and I would love some sort of opportunity to be on campus with them to celebrate ourselves before we all go off in different directions.”

Others even felt that the decision was made without enough student input.

“At no point as a senior was I ever asked what I would like in terms of commencement and having it in the middle of October is utterly ridiculous,” said Ben Lefkowitz ‘20. “With my post-graduation plans, I have no clue if I would be able to make it to campus for commencement. It would honestly cost a lot of money to get to campus. Unless they’re willing to cover transportation and housing, I don’t plan on going. I really wish they would reach out to us and ask us what we want and what works for us rather than just doing what they think is best.”

This lack of student input may soon change, as Harring indicated in her email that in the next few days, both seniors and students graduating from the newly established School of Continuing Studies “will receive an email with more details and a survey that will help us shape both the end of year and fall activities.”

Harring also wrote that, towards the end of the academic year, graduating students will each be mailed a cap and gown free of charge as well as other celebratory items.

For students still attending Muhlenberg in the fall, updates have mainly concerned students who were planning to study abroad. Harring’s emails indicated that said students could choose to remain on campus for the entire academic year, go abroad in the spring of 2021 or go abroad in the fall of 2021. Certain theatre students who had been planning to travel to Arezzo, Italy or London, England could choose to attend this fall’s New York City abroad program instead.

Still, not all were comforted by this plethora of options.

“When the email went out, that little piece of hope was gone, and now everything feels like it’s up in the air.”

“A part of me knew it was going to happen, but another part of me held onto it as a source of hope that something in my future is certain,” said Alex Goldman ‘22, who had been planning to study in Arezzo. “When the email went out, that little piece of hope was gone, and now everything feels like it’s up in the air. I had to scramble to find a new housing plan and reevaluate my abroad plans. I’m scheduled to go abroad in the spring, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up because I don’t want to be disappointed if it gets cancelled again, which it might.”

Others felt a similar sense of cautiousness about the fate of their fall semesters.

“I mean, I was pretty prepared on paper for fall abroad to be cancelled; I came up with a couple of schedules when the course list came out,” said Celeste Samson ‘22, who had been preparing to go to London. “It’s really the uncertainty that’s really been unnerving to me. I’ve been hearing more and more about us starting later this fall or just staying online for the semester and that would really, really suck. But for the most part I’m delving into hobbies and trying to plan stuff for the fall so I have something to look forward to!”

Something to look forward to ⁠— for many disappointed seniors and study abroad students, finding this seems to be a common goal. With graduation in sight and plans coming together for future semesters, ‘Berg has been working to provide a sense of excitement for its scattered students. With the promise that applicable refunds for unused room and board charges will be issued by the end of April, according to Harring’s latest video update, the community is beginning to focus on how the ins and outs of how next semester will proceed. Updates are expected to continue via email for the foreseeable future. The Weekly will continue to publish this information as it is made available.

+ posts

Brooke is a senior double majoring in English and Media & Communication. She's passionate about french toast, Kate Bishop, Steven Universe and the ocean coasts of Ireland. On campus, she is a Writing Tutor, Orientation Leader and member of the Girls Next Door, Muhlenberg's all-lady a capella group. She could not be more excited to serve as your Editor-In-Chief this year!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here