With growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Washington state and the U.S., measures are being taken to flatten the curve of the disease’s spread. For CWU seniors, this included the cancellation of spring’s commencement ceremony.
This decision was announced by CWU President James L. Gaudino during a virtual CWU Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting on March 20.
On March 23, CWU Interim Provost Lynn Franken sent an email following up about commencement being cancelled.
“I am also sorry that we were not able to inform you of this decision before it was published on social media,” Franken wrote. “These are challenging times, in which communication has sometimes been less nimble than we would have wished. I hope you will accept my apology.”
In her email, Franken cited a March 20 Kittitas County Public Health Department (KCPHD) order to cancel all university-sponsored or community events. This order is intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
KCPHD Public Information Officer Kasey Knutson said while commencement could not take place under the current health order, the university was not told it could not postpone or reschedule commencement.
One of the directives under the health order says, “In-person, University-sponsored student or community events are canceled – no exceptions. (This does not include staff meetings, although social distancing requirements still apply.)”
“It doesn’t say that things cannot be postponed or set for a later date once the health order is lifted or rescinded,” Knutson said.
Soon after Gaudino made the announcement during the public BOT meeting and The Observer reported it, the university posted on social media. CWU seniors began posting on social media, citing how they felt about commencement being cancelled.
“I’ve cried, fallen apart, put myself back together, suffered in silence, and started the process all over just to make it to graduation day and just like that I won’t get one. There are no words to describe how upset I am,” senior Tierra Willoughby also wrote on Twitter.
“Four years of hard work and I won’t even get to walk across the stage. My dream got taken away from me,” senior Maria Espinosa wrote, quoting the university’s post on Twitter. She also addressed those who may not see commencement as a “big deal.”
2,092 people have signed a petition on Change.org for CWU to postpone commencement instead of leaving it cancelled. From summer 2016 to spring 2017, a total of 1,868 undergraduates participated in commencement.
“This petition is to formally request that the university reconsiders the decision to cancel the 2020 commencement ceremony,” the petition’s description reads. “We would like for postponement or rescheduling to be taken into consideration, instead of outright cancellation.”