Weinberg’s speech at the 2018 commencement message was “Live the Mission.”
Photo courtesy of University Communications

ALINA PANEK, Editor-in-Chief —

Adam Weinberg, college president, delivers a heartfelt message to the class of 2020 through an emailed video. It includes an apology and announcement for graduation postponement in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“To be honest, at this point I suspect the odds that we’ll be able to hold a graduation on campus in May are fairly slim,” President Weinberg said in his video. “I’m not ready to give out hope yet. I think you deserve for us to hold out for a little longer… but at this moment the odds are slim.”

Kimberly Gutierrez ’20, studying Political Science and Psychology from Chicago, IL has looked forward to college graduation her whole life as a first-generation college student. “Graduation to me was the culmination of my hard work from pre-k to now, meshed with my parents’ hard work and sacrifices to arrive to this moment,” Gutierrez wrote in a direct message. “While I understand the necessity to postpone for everyone’s health, I do hope that it’s something that is at the least comparable and maybe even larger than the usual celebration.”

In his video, Weinberg promises a ceremony “so memorable that you’ll be talking about it at your tenth, twentieth and fiftieth reunion. You deserve that. You’ve worked hard to get here and I wanna make sure that we deliver that for you.”

He gives no hints as to what that might look like but it provides a little bit of light to seniors as they transition to a new and daunting reality during COVID-19.

This news is hopeful as other classes are told that their graduation ceremonies are cancelled. University of Michigan, University of Illinois in Chicago and in Urbana-Champaign, in addition to Butler University in Indiana would outright cancel their ceremony. Other schools like Northeastern University in Boston, MA, University of California, Los Angeles, and John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD have promised their students a virtual graduation.

“Human being to human being, I’m sorry that you’re going through this,” Weinberg said. “You worked so hard to get here. You deserve better but this is where we’re at. But just know that I’m thinking about you and care about you and at some point would like to celebrate you.”

The class of 2020 had a half of a semester left when Denison transitioned to remote learning. Most seniors had culminating projects, events, and ceremonies to give closure to their college career. Faculty and staff are scrambling to figure out how they can still provide their seniors that experience.

“I’m devastated [about the postponed commencement],” said Frank Becerril ’20, a first generation college student. “I know the circumstances are difficult all over the word but life has been nothing but an uphill battle. The one thing that kept me going was the the idea of crossing the the finish line at commencement. I feel like I’m being robbed of it. Walking across the stage was something my parents have always dreamed of and now they won’t have the opportunity. For me, it was barrier breaker to so many of the challenges me and my family have faced.”

Alternatives have sprung up from concerned community members across the nation. For example, a staff member from Chicago Scholars, a Denison campus partner that supports multicultural and first generation students, Derrick M. Fleming, Jr. proposed a graduation for all Chicago based students that were planning to have a spring ceremony in a LinkedIn post.