Class of 2020 deserves better communication about graduation plans

Claire Montgomery

Senior News Writer

I don’t think I am alone in thinking that our administration went above and beyond in the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were sent information as quickly as it came, there were in-person meetings and then online meetings, and we started getting daily emails. Additionally, I don’t think any person begrudges the decision the College had to make for us to pack up and leave early — a sad situation, but one necessary with the current reality we face. But when it came to the administration’s communication and decision making about the lack of end-of-school ceremonies and traditions for the Class of 2020, myself and my peers were blindsided and upset by the lack of communication and decisions that had been made about such ceremonies. It’s not necessarily that these decisions were bad, it’s just that they were not communicated, thus leading to outrage and confusion.

First, on March 30, we were told that the original day for Commencement, May 11, was canceled, but we were led to believe that an in-person ceremony would happen at some date in the future. We had all been expecting Commencement to be canceled — given the projected timelines of the pandemic, such a cancelation would make sense. But then, on April 10, we were told that there would be an online ceremony on May 11 instead of an in-person ceremony. Second, a replacement I.S. Monday parade for the one that we missed would be held next semester during Black & Gold (B&G) Weekend. Also during B&G Weekend would be the Lavender Celebration and Multi-Cultural Stole Ceremony.

The April 10 email caused outrage, and in my personal experience, tears. I can only imagine the inbox flooding that Dean Brown and President Bolton experienced, and the Class of 2020 Facebook page blew up. The day after the announcement, another email was sent, along with a similar post on the Class of 2020 Facebook page, saying that the virtual ceremony was to ensure that we would receive our diplomas, which could be necessary for future jobs and graduate school. Wooster would still celebrate with an in-person ceremony at a later date — they just wanted to make sure we had officially “graduated.” I understand that decision, though why it wasn’t included in the original email is one I am astonished by. Were they not expecting the Class of 2020 to wig out when it looked like we wouldn’t get the ceremony we had been expecting? We should have been given this information in the initial email.

People were similarly outraged with the second announcement about B&G Weekend. There was the general consensus that the Class of 2020 had been ripped off, because we were expected to share our celebrations with all of the other usual events that happen during the weekend, such as the homecoming football game, parent’s weekend, a huge number of prospective students coming to campus, and reunions for several campus organizations. Moreover, students were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to come to an October weekend because of job or graduate school schedules. Additionally, Wooster usually has full hotels during B&G — where is the Class of 2020 going to stay?

Again, this seemed to be a situation where we hadn’t been given enough information. In the follow-up email, we were told that B&G Weekend would be made “extra special” for our class, and the usual model of the weekend would not be followed. I’m willing to believe that may be the case — but again, why weren’t we told in the initial announcement? Did the administration not expect us to consider all the reasons why B&G might not be the best time to celebrate our achievements? Were we expected to divine that information when we weren’t explicitly told in the first place?

I love Wooster. It has been my home for four years and I have made so many close friends that I expect to keep in close contact with in the years to come. But the Class of 2020 deserves better information especially when it concerns our end-of-school ceremonies. Give us the opportunity to weigh in, explain what you are thinking from the beginning, and you might find that we won’t be as upset. The COVID-19 pandemic is already challenging enough — please don’t add more stress to an already upsetting situation.