The uncertainty of COVID-19 has severely impacted administrative planning across the world. International, national, state and even local administrators of all organizations are currently at the whims of the virus, with events of all types being postponed for an arbitrary date in the future. This patchwork planning style is no different for the administration of The College of Wooster. I understand the massive difficulties in planning for major traditional events during this time period and recognize that it is in the best interest of all during this time to not have events such as commencement at the previously scheduled time of early May. I also understand, at least somewhat, that degrees and transcripts need to be sent out to us so that we have at least that aspect of post-Wooster life out of the way. The current plan for the ceremonial commencement, however, strikes me as a major misstep disguised as the “best-case scenario” for the event.
The current plan is to have the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 during the Black and Gold weekend of next semester, planned for mid-October of 2020. Several individuals, like myself, decried the timing of the event, posting a date within the summer. The College, understandably, responded that based on the current orders within Ohio, large gatherings such as commencement could not be planned for the summer, and thought of Black and Gold weekend as another time that would make the event “special” for the class. So much about this date in particular, still, makes it a choice that ranges from awkward at best to disastrous at worst, starting with the October 2020 date that is seemingly both too late and too soon. Students at this point in their lives will be pursuing job opportunities, if not already within an occupation. Asking for a free weekend at a time when the job market will still be so bleak and undefined may be too much for many individuals to undertake. This does not account for any of the senior class who will have to leave the country at some point before that date. If large gatherings are to be one of the last social activities allowed within the country, international travel to and from the U.S., which currently holds the highest count of individuals infected with COVID-19, would be nigh impossible for any student, especially for a single weekend.
Black and Gold weekend is traditionally an event that hosts all types of alumni and admissions events. Having traditional events for the senior class would go one of two ways. One scenario would see the cancelation of those alumni and admissions events, which would be a puzzling decision for the College given the amount of potential revenue available during the weekend. However, that event would be the preferred alternative to having all the events occur. Hotels and other housing in the area would be packed to the brim, and the campus would have its resources stretched to its absolute limits. Plus, think of events such as the Independent Study march occurring while confused first-years and parents watch several grown adults day-drink.
At a time where some colleges are thinking of continuing remote classes until 2021, choosing Black and Gold weekend for commencement is a decision that seems to be a quick-fix solution to an uncertain future event. It’s equivalent to putting pink duct tape over a herniated disc, a misguided and frankly off-putting solution only concerned with the optics of an administration limping and waiting for the hospital to empty the ICU of COVID-19 cases.