Saddleback College graduates face the hardships of having a virtual commencement for the class of 2020

Student looking through the computer. (Emily Lowry/Courtesy)

Finals week is almost over, which means we are one step closer to the finish line. Most Saddleback students still have more semesters to go, but for the graduates of 2020, this isn’t the graduation ceremony they were expecting. 

Every graduate understands that uncertain times like this cannot be fixed in one day, yet it doesn’t take the feeling of an “unfinished education” away. Whether you are graduating with a certificate, associates, or transferring, an online virtual commencement does not compare to walking across the stage wearing a cap and gown. 

“I don’t see a point in going because the reason for having a graduation is to celebrate with your peers and loved ones,” Saddleback transfer student Grant Flanagan said. “A virtual graduation is more of a chore than a celebration.”

The Saddleback Commencement Planning Team has moved its May 2020 in-person ceremony to a virtual commencement ceremony. Every graduate is invited to participate and send out personal slides, videos, photos and messages that will be inserted into a montage for all graduates, families and friends to see. Students are encouraged to order caps and gowns for the virtual ceremony; however, it is not required. 

“Im not even sending my slides into the virtual graduation,” Saddleback transfer student Sydney Burns said. “I think it’s a joke and waste of time because it’s not a real graduation. It feels like I worked so hard to get down there [San Diego State University] and transfer from Saddleback with my associates in journalism just to get screwed over and put online for fall 2020.”

This isn’t exactly the smoothest transition from one college to another since the only way to prepare for fall 2020 is by checking emails and updates from the school website. Many transfer students felt unmotivated to finish their last semester because of quarantine and feel indifferent about attending the virtual graduation. In spite of it, other students are trying to stay positive and see the better side of an online ceremony.

“Personally I think that a virtual commencement is better than no commencement,” Saddleback transfer student Emily Lowry said. “Your hard work is still being recognized, but it just may not be the same experience we are used to. Unfortunately since this is a learning curve for everyone, and there’s a lot of uncertainty, I feel a bit unsupported.”

Although Saddleback graduates know their hard work is being recognized, there’s a discourage to continue portraying the same involvement in the new college they committed to. Since we don’t know when on-campus classes will resume, there’s no other way but to continue and accept this is, and will be, the new reality for education.

“I feel like this is a factor that has unmotivated me,” Lowry said. “The excitement of getting a ‘real’ college experience will be delayed yet again for me, so I don’t know what to expect. This is of course for the safety of thousands and potentially millions of people, which I wish there was a way for students and staff to feel supported as thoroughly as they do in school.”

It is important for students to acknowledge Saddleback is trying to maintain a “college experience” for everyone despite the circumstances. Graduates will still receive their diplomas or certificates through the mail no matter what. The Commencement Planning Team understands how hard it is to be part of the Class of 2020, so these students can join the in-person ceremony for next year if they desire to assist at the time.

“Our hope is that we will be able to hold the 2021 commencement ceremony in the new football stadium in May 2021,” director of student life Chris Hargraves said. “Although you are not able to officially go across the stage this year, we will invite you to participate in the next year’s ceremony.”