College seniors throughout South Florida are grieving the loss of upcoming graduation ceremonies due to novel coronavirus concerns, saying the virus has robbed them of an important moment in their lives.
Earlier this week the Florida Board of Governors directed all state universities — including Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University — to hold online classes through the end of the spring semester. They also directed each campus to develop an alternate way to hold commencement, canceling all May ceremonies.
As of Friday, FIU officials had not announced plans.
FIU senior Daniela Guevara said she appreciates how fast the university reacted to the news and how quickly they were able to transition to online learning but strongly believes commencement should not be canceled.
“As students we have worked so hard and for so long and for a lot of us that ceremony is a huge deal of emotion and excitement of finishing,” Guevara said. “Commencement ceremony is that final line the graduates get to cross.”
University system spokeswoman Renee Fargason acknowledged that commencement is an important milestone.
“We understand that this is disappointing,” she said. “It is not a decision we take lightly but the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and communities are of upmost importance.”
The University of Miami released a statement on Thursday stating it will be suspending all large events due to the coronavirus and all undergraduate, graduate and law commencement ceremonies will be postponed till December.
Temra Taylor, a mother of a UM student, said she was disappointed by the decision.
“I’m a single parent and sacrificed so much to send her to UM,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t cheap. I would have liked to see it take place in August.”
Miami Dade College engineering student Michelle Rengifo said she wasn’t too excited about the thought of having the rest of the semester online. MDC has not announced how it plans to handle commencement.
“This is my last semester and I never thought that this is how it would play out,” Rengifo said. “It sucks.”