Administration should have consulted students when making commencement decision

Marco Roccato

Contributing Writer

The Class of 2020 has been and is a group of incredible people. Students from the Class of 2020 have been scholars and community leaders: they created unique research projects, they led student organizations through years of changes, they stuck with an institution whose tuition hikes made it harder and harder for them and their families to afford it. Through all of it, most importantly, they loved the College of Wooster. And sure, they got bored after the fifth trip of the week to Walmart (remember those?), but they gave everything to this college community — inside and outside of the classroom. 

Would you like to know how many members of the Class of 2020 were asked to contribute any feedback before a decision about our commencement was made? Zero. Would you like to know how many members of the Class of 2020 will be asked by the Alumni Office for contributions in a few months? All of them. Let me be clear, I don’t expect the Class of 2020 to be the one that solely gets to pick a date for a future commencement and to plan all of the festivities. But I had at least hoped that the administration would have reached out to us for some kind of feedback. A Google Form, a quick email, a Facebook poll. Nothing, niente, nada. Rather than being proactive and at least showing an effort in collecting ideas from us, we simply received an email detailing the plans that were decided for us. We could have happily waited for more information, waiting for this whole situation to be a thing of the past — yet a decision was made now without consulting us and then it was just shared with us. The result? Around 500 angry and disappointed Fighting Scots and soon-to-be-Alumni. 

I fully understand that our administration is rightfully overwhelmed with the daily developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I do truly appreciate how well they’ve been operating on most sides of things, especially as someone stuck on campus at the moment. I have my own gripes with an October graduation, but that is not what I want to focus on in this brief article. The biggest disappointment is how our opinion was not even requested at any point. This was a rushed decision-making process for a school that prides itself on valuing its students’ opinions. It took us long enough to get used to the idea of a Scot Center graduation, and now we have something else to get over. The Class of 2020 is the 150th class to attend and graduate from the College of Wooster. We have made a lasting impact on this beautiful community. We deserved to have our opinion heard. The final decision does belong to the cabinet, but I truly wish that someone at some point would have reached out for some input. I love Wooster and I love the people of Wooster; I always will. I just do not want this to become a bitter epilogue to a beautiful story.

A quick-fix solution isn’t the way to plan commencement

Brandon Borges

Contributing Writer

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.

For first-gen college students, commencement symbolizes upward mobility

Margie Sosa

Contributing Writer

For first-generation college students, walking across the stage at commencement is something bigger than just us. It symbolizes a start to educational and intergenerational mobility, one of the many reasons why my family chose to immigrate to the U.S. and why I decided to pursue a higher education.

When I found out that commencement was going to be “virtual,” I didn’t know how to feel. While it is important to recognize the gravity of the pandemic, it does not take away the feeling of disappointment of not being able to participate in a traditional commencement ceremony this May. There is no doubt that the College is taking reasonable and responsible measures, but the sentiment of not being able to take part in the ceremony is bittersweet. Commencement was not only an important moment for me but for my family. As a first-generation college student and first-generation American, walking across the stage at commencement was something that kept me motivated through the toughest times. It is what pushed me to keep going despite all those late nights in the library, having to work three part-time jobs and supporting my family back home. This May, I was supposed to walk across that stage not only for myself but for my parents who never had the opportunity to do so. I was supposed to walk across that stage to prove to my two little brothers that they could do it as well.

Commencement was a time to finally show not only to my family but to myself how far we have finally come. How much I have invested into myself, how many disappointments and triumphs we’ve gone through to finally see this finished product. These past four years at Wooster have been anything but easy. There have been many times that I just wanted to pack my bags and go back home. However, as much as I struggled to succeed and fit in, I managed to make Wooster my “home away from home.”

Receiving my degree and having it physically in my hands will be gratifying no matter the setting, but our recognition, our hard work, our achievements and our breakthroughs deserve to be celebrated. Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and all the soon to be first-gen grads; while we’re not living out our last semester of college like we would have wished, we will surely have a story to tell. 

Decisions are made by those who show up

Oria Daugherty

Contributing Writer

Over the last year, the College has started to undergo a lot of changes in a lot of different areas — we have begun the Master Planning process to plan for the next decade of Wooster’s future, the planning for the Lowry renovation has begun in full force and the College is in the process of moving from two student governing bodies to one. These are big changes, and the entire student body should make their voices heard in these processes, yet most do not.

There are countless meetings, planning sessions and Q&A sessions about these issues. The Oversight Committee planned several sessions to hear about what the student body wanted the new student governance to look like, and yet the meetings were almost exclusively attended by students who had participated in one of the two existing bodies in the last several years — very few students outside of student government came. Similarly, something like a half-dozen sessions have been held to field suggestions, questions and comments about the Lowry renovation, and yet at the most recent presentation, I was the only person in a sea of chairs set up in the Pit when the meeting was set to start at 5 p.m. I know that students are busy — I know practice, rehearsal and study groups prevent some students from attending these meetings. But to have one student available out of 2,000 feels unlikely. (I will say that other students showed up shortly after, though the group never exceeded 10.)

I believe it is the responsibility of the administration, the student government or whatever group plans these sessions to ensure there is variety in timing, so that different parts of the student body can attend different sessions. It is also important to send out the information about the meeting time and place sooner rather than later, and that is something that has been done poorly in several instances. However, it is not the responsibility of those planning the meeting to beg students to attend and give feedback (which they essentially are — trust me, being the only student in a large, empty space with President Bolton presenting directly to you from a large projector clearly set up for a crowd is less than a comfortable experience). The student body should care enough about the future of the College and the future students that will attend to show up to at least a few of these meetings. While it can be hard to invest time into something like the Lowry renovation, which most of us will never see as students, we should care enough about the improvement of the College to show up.

I decided to write this not only because I saw how poorly attended these events are, but because I catch my peers, my friends and myself making regular complaints about how things are on campus. Students complain about a lack of representation in student government bodies, but do not attend meetings about government. Students complain about the design of Lowry, the dining services available and the dysfunctionality of the Alley, but do not attend Lowry renovation meetings. Feel free to complain. We all do; I do. But my request is this: when given the opportunity, direct those complaints productively, to someone who is looking for student opinions. You might just be able to prevent a couple complaints for the classes that come after you.

Bolton announces virtual commencement, senior celebrations during B&G Weekend

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

 On Friday, April 10, President Sarah Bolton announced that The College of Wooster would be holding a virtual graduation ceremony to celebrate the class of 2020’s accomplishments and time at the College.

Bolton announced this in an email sent to seniors. The virtual commencement ceremony will be held on Monday, May 11 at 1:00 p.m. EST, the same day as the in-person celebration would have been. There will be a virtual Baccalaureate ceremony on May 10 at 1:00 p.m. The email also stated that an in-person celebration for the class of 2020 would take place during Black and Gold Weekend which will be October 23-25. 

Bolton said that many of the missed senior spring events would be held during Black and Gold Weekend. “We plan to hold an I.S Monday parade, to recognize your academic accomplishments, and to host the Lavender Celebration and Multi-Cultural Stole Ceremony, including presenting students with their stoles,” Bolton stated in the email. 

However, some seniors were not happy with the revised commencement plans. Some took to social media to voice their concerns, the primary of which being a perceived lack of student input when making the decision .

To address this, Bolton said students will have input in planning Black and Gold Weekend. “Our plan had been to reach out to ask seniors what they would like to see happen for the weekend of celebrations in their honor, so that we could create a gathering that would be best for seniors and families,” Bolton said. Additionally, Bolton said that she is aware of student opinion.

“We also are listening to the many seniors who wrote to us overnight, some of whom want an earlier celebration (August) and others who want something much later (May of ’21),” Bolton stated in an email.  “We are doing everything we can to create a celebration that is best for everyone, knowing that there are many different circumstances and needs in the class.”

Other students are afraid many won’t be able to return to campus for Black and Gold Weekend. Bolton said she is aware of this, and its part of what led to the decision to hold a virtual ceremony.

“Knowing that [travelling back to Wooster is difficult] was part of what made us want to make the virtual celebration on May 11th a little more than just the ‘official’ granting of degrees, so that those who may not be able to come back to Wooster at all in the coming year would still have something they could be a part of,” Bolton stated. 

Bolton said it was important that there was both a virtual ceremony as well as an in-person celebration. She affirmed the College’s commitment to holding this in-person celebration, emphasizing in a follow-up email on April 11, “We definitely will have a full, in-person commencement ceremony including all of the parts of the program—processions of students and faculty, bagpipers, honorary degrees, speakers and reading of individual names when we gather in person.”

Since announcing the decision, Bolton said she has heard a lot of feedback from seniors and said this is “all changing quickly as we speak … we understand that many seniors are not happy with this approach, understandably, and will think on it further to see what else could work.”

At the end of the initial email, Bolton confirmed how proud she was of the class of 2020.

“In this challenging season, please know how proud we are of all of you,” the email read.  “You were already a special class before COVID-19, and now you are learning, caring for others, persevering and making a difference in a historic time.  I am so looking forward to watching your futures unfold, and to seeing the positive impact you will make across the US and around the world.”

When will Wooster take student concerns over tuition seriously?

Zoe Kopp-Weber

Contributing Writer

C.O.W. tuition increased 4.6 percent in 2013. This was my junior year and I was anxious. The sticker price of our education exceeded $50,000 before additional expenses, and I was also shouldering bills for my family at the time. I advocated for tuition transparency alongside the Wooster Student Union (WSU), but the administration met us with apathy, bemusement and ridicule. We didn’t ask for a tuition freeze; we just wanted to know where our (loan) money was going. We questioned the sitting president’s salary — Grant Cornwell’s base compensation was over $300,000 — and emphasized that solutions proposed by the financial office didn’t address our problem; in some cases such solutions even failed to assist international students. The odds were stacked against us. After a year of organizing, the movement dissolved when the majority of WSU graduated.

 I graduated from C.O.W. six years ago and have only recently secured my first salaried job upon completing my Master’s, and 70 grand of student debt looms over my head. It felt like fate when, during my research at said job, I stumbled across a current C.O.W. student — Maggie Dougherty ’21 — advocating for a tuition lock. This isn’t the first or second time a student has taken to the Voice regarding tuition; in 2014, Jai Ranchod ’15 estimated that by 2024 tuition would reach $73,000, and in 2017, Evan White ’18 wrote a viewpoint expressing continued frustration with the lack of transparency accompanying tuition hikes. Do students really have to keep addressing this? What will it take for C.O.W. to seriously evaluate the cost-benefit of a liberal arts education, especially taking into account that a Bachelor of Arts isn’t what it was ten years ago?

 The fact is that the current cost of a four-year education at C.O.W. is $267,000. I’m sure the Financial Office, President Bolton, four vice presidents and roughly sixteen deans/associates will take the usual stance: students may apply for more loans or need-based aid. But with the burgeoning student debt crisis, the struggle for living wages and healthcare, the widening gap between upper-income households and middle- and lower-income households; is it worth it anymore?

 I’m sure there are alumni who are living sustainable, happy lives, who aren’t working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. Even still, I hope that C.O.W. takes into consideration what students like Maggie Doughtery, Jai Ranchod, Evan White and I have said. Even if C.O.W. is falling in line with every other college, these hikes make education a privilege few can afford and continues to marginalize students who are trying to do what we are told in order to succeed.

 Close to the end of WSU’s campaign, President Cornwell approached me and two other members outside of Andrews Library and said point-blank, “You think I should take a pay cut.” It was an egregious flex in which he failed to consider that he was making a yearly salary worth more than a cumulative four years at Wooster for one student. I find it troublesome that those with money continue to try and convince those without that somehow we are unreasonable for believing that education — a stepping stone towards a better quality of life, as they say — should be affordable.

 The global pandemic has further deepened the cracks between the upper-class and everyone outside of it. What direction is Wooster going?

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