SDSU seniors react to the realities of a virtual graduation

by Jeanette Giovanniello, Staff Writer

San Diego State seniors will be turning their tassels behind their computer screens this May, as this year’s graduation marks the first-ever digital celebration in campus history. 

SDSU’s Virtual Graduation Ceremony will take place on May 16 at noon, replacing the traditional spring ceremonies that take place at Viejas Arena. Graduates and their families can find the livestream on the university’s homepage and through Facebook Live.

In addition to the virtual celebration, the university has rescheduled the dates for the class of 2020’s in-person commencement, which will take place from Dec. 17 to 20, according to the commencement site.

The decision comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting universities across the nation to switch all courses and gatherings to an online platform.

Savanah Mendoza, an interdisciplinary studies senior, said  she is still excited for graduation, despite the recent changes.

“I’m happy that we still get this opportunity,” Mendoza said. “I have a lot of friends whose universities are cancelling graduation and not even postponing it. I’m super grateful to actually still have the chance to walk and graduate. Even having an online graduation is better than nothing.”

Each of the California State University system’s 23 schools have postponed in-person commencements this spring, according to a statement. CSU schools such as Chico State and Sacramento State are offering a virtual commencement without a postponed in-person date, and will instead choose to honor the 2020 seniors at the Spring 2021 commencement. 

Rachel Legan, an interior architecture senior at SDSU, said the new commencement dates have caused inconvenience for herself and other out-of-state students. 

“December is just not ideal,” Legan said.  “Who knows what kind of jobs we’ll have at that time to come back all the way for graduation? The dates are right before the holidays, so travel is going to be expensive and we’re already taking time off. People who don’t live close to campus are kind of at a disadvantage.”

Students have also expressed frustration at the university’s lack of communication regarding the virtual celebration and GradFest, an on-campus event where upcoming graduates purchase their caps, gowns, memorabilia and commencement tickets.

An email was sent to seniors with information on how to purchase their regalia. There is no updated information regarding GradFest dates for the fall semester and postponed commencement. 

Amanda Duren, speech language and hearing sciences senior, said she has an overall positive opinion on how SDSU has handled graduation. However, she recalls the lack of information about GradFest to be “frustrating.”

“They definitely haven’t been doing a good job of letting students know how they can get their stuff,” Duren said. “Nothing was available online before. I don’t even know if people want to buy their stuff now since the ceremony is in December, but they still haven’t told us anything about GradFest.”

The changes have also brought up discussion of financial compensation. Seniors are required to pay a $100 non-refundable fee with their application to graduate, which covers the cost of the ceremony, diplomas and their evaluations. Ruben Meza, criminal justice senior, said he believes the university should consider a reimbursement. 

“I feel like since it has been postponed, students who are graduating should get a refund for their payment,” Meza said. “It’s understandable that it covers December’s commencement, but I think there should be some kind of exemption. They can find out who is attending the postponed date and who is not so they can get refunded.”

Spring and summer graduates will receive their diplomas by mail approximately 6 to 8 weeks after the semester ends, according to the commencement website. Fall 2020 graduates will be allowed to participate in the December commencement, alongside the May graduates.