Another graduation bites the dust

Seniors disappointed, understand importance of safety; students can come back to walk in future in-person graduations if desired



“This will be my graduation,” said Jane McDonald, senior broadcast news major. “I will be proud that it is my graduation, even if it is online.”

STEFFI LUDAHL, Evergreen reporter

The highlight of most students’ college experience is walking across the stage during graduation. For the third time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, WSU students will not have that experience. 

Jane McDonald, senior broadcast news major, said she understands a virtual ceremony is important to the safety of students and the community, but that does not make it any less disappointing. 

“Of course, I’m a little sad,” she said. “Definitely not the way I wanted to end my college career.”

Brandon Harbo, senior marketing major, said he would only be attending virtual graduation for his family. He knows they want to celebrate his accomplishments. But for Harbo, it is not the same as walking across a stage. 

Bailey Halpin, senior human resources major, said it was hard to hear the decision become official, but he figured graduation would be online. 

“I mean, it’s something that we’ve also kind of gotten accustomed to as students because everything’s online and virtual now,” he said. 

Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications, said the decision was hard to make, but the safety of students and their families is important. 

“At this point, we don’t believe that we’re going to have wide enough availability of the vaccine in the state of Washington,” Weiler said. “That would allow us to do face-to-face in-person commencement safely.” 

In May 2020, the university had its very first virtual commencement, said Jill Creighton, WSU dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs. 

For the December 2020 and May 2021 graduation ceremonies, WSU contracted with StageClip, a company that specializes in virtual graduation ceremonies, Weiler said. With this company, students can upload pictures or video clips to go along with their student slide show. 

Spring graduation will be different because it will be the first system-wide commencement that includes WSU’s Global Campus in the history of WSU, he said. Each campus will come together for opening remarks before breaking up into groups by campus or college.

“That’s one of the silver linings of this unfortunate decision to have to go virtual is it will allow students from all of our campuses across the state to be able to have one event at the same time,” Weiler said.

ASWSU President Curtis Cohen said he thinks the system-wide celebration is good because it highlights the statewide presence WSU has. 

Halpin said there are benefits to the virtual ceremony. It means that family and loved ones from various locations can attend the celebration more easily.

“Since I’m Latino descent, I have like a big family tree and like, just the one side of the family from my mom’s side is over 100 people,” said Angel Avina-Ramirez, senior landscape architecture and Spanish double major. “For them to attend it virtually will help a lot.” 

Creighton said WSU administrators want to ensure students feel recognized for their achievements. Students have the option to attend the virtual graduation and come back to walk during an in-person ceremony.

“This will be my graduation,” McDonald said. “I will be proud that it is my graduation, even if it is online.”