Graduation?

As the class of 2021 prepares to graduate, many students are wondering what the ceremonies and senior activities will look like during the pandemic

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Photo by Meredith Raab '24

On Mar. 10, 2021, President Kathleen Harring announced there will be an in-person graduation ceremony for the class of 2021. Back in January, students wondered whether an in-person ceremony would be feasible due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, but President Harring’s email confirmed that a ceremony is scheduled for May 24 at the PPL Center, and they intend on having a limited number of family members in attendance to comply with COVID policies. Along with the announcement of graduation, students were also given information regarding Senior Days events and potential opportunities for students to participate in. 

Ellen Lentine, director of Student Organizations, Leadership and Engagement, indicated that although it is too early to say what these activities will look like, the College is prioritizing “in-person celebratory events that are safe and feasible.” 

“We are currently working on plans for several options, including a Senior Ball-type of event, a bonfire, a pub night and other events,” states Lentine. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic creates a challenging environment where the guidelines and regulations are in constant flux.” Lentine also indicated that the College plans on releasing the Senior Days schedule in late April and hopes to have a better sense of what social opportunities can be conducted safely for the class of 2021.

After COVID stripped the class of 2021 of so many different opportunities, from athletic competitions to academics and extracurriculars, students were comforted by the decision made by the College to push for in-person ceremonies and activities. 

“When I heard that we were having a graduation ceremony I became super excited!”

Nyasia Thomas ‘21, a psychology major with a minor in women and gender studies, was “super excited” when the school announced it planned on having in-person activities to celebrate the senior class. 

“When I heard that we were having a graduation ceremony I became super excited!” said Thomas. “I think I’ve been going through the motions these past couple of years, doing what I have to do to get my degree, that I forgot how big of a deal it is to graduate college. It’s such a huge accomplishment and actually having a chance to celebrate that really gives me a chance to sit back and reflect on my journey.” Thomas indicated that she plans on attending the ceremony and is anxiously awaiting the announcement of Senior Days events. 

Daniel Haus ‘21 shared a similar sentiment. “I was very happy when I heard the announcement about graduation,” said Haus, a business administration major. “I know my family has been looking forward to watching me graduate, so the fact they can now be there makes me happy.” 

Despite the announcement of graduation, there are still some worries about the way graduation will be conducted and how it will look come May 24. Although the details haven’t been finalized, students still are interested in how the College will manage to pull off an in-person graduation during the pandemic. 

Brain Speer, vice president of communications for Muhlenberg, is one of the major players responsible for organizing the graduation and was able to provide some insight on ways the College can adhere to these restrictions. 

“The only restrictions we need to be aware of during the planning process are those around the size of indoor gatherings,” stated Speer. “Beyond that, we have a full set of COVID-related guidelines that will help ensure as safe an event as possible.” Speer was also able to confirm that although the ceremony details aren’t finalized in any way, there will likely be some pre-recorded segments of the ceremony to reduce the number of people present. 

“With COVID, anything can change at any point, but right now I’m preparing for a socially distanced graduation with some precautions taken by the school.”

“With COVID, anything can change at any point, but right now I’m preparing for a socially distanced graduation with some precautions taken by the school,” states Haus. “There will probably be a limited number of people allowed to attend the ceremony along with some restrictions on where people can sit, and how long the ceremony can be.” 

Thomas shared some of the same sentiments, stating she has no idea what graduation will look like but wouldn’t be surprised if the college went a certain route. “I envision there will be two different ceremonies depending on majors to cut down on the number of people in the center. Hopefully not though because I really want to see all of my friends walk across the stage!” 

There are also worries about how the restrictions will impact how many people can be at the ceremony along with the events. “I’m worried that not all of my family will be able to come to the ceremony because of COVID restrictions,” said Thomas. “I’m sure tickets will be limited to decrease attendance and make sure everyone can safely participate in the ceremony.” 

President Harring made it clear in her announcement that only a limited number of family members will be able to attend due to the restrictions put in place by the PPL center. Haus, on the other hand, didn’t seem too worried about how graduation would turn out so long as everyone was able to participate safely. “There isn’t too much I’m worried about,” says Haus. “My biggest concern would be making sure everyone is staying safe and as long as that happens, I’m sure the College will be able to conduct a wonderful ceremony.”

The announcement of what graduation and Senior Days activities will look like, how many people will be in attendance and more specifics on the event will be forthcoming from the College.

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