CWU lazy, premature with online graduation

Derek Harper , Columnist

The decision by Central Washington University to put graduation fully online again this year was premature, taking the easy way out and simply lazy. The school called it way too early. It’s an excuse to not put the work in when there are ways to do at least a hybrid model where students can still walk across the stage and be recognized for their hard work. 

The Arizona Coyotes NHL franchise started the season off last month allowing 3,450 fans in the building which is 25% of their normal listed capacity. Any fans attending home games must wear masks and use an app players used in the NHL bubbles last season called CLEAR. Fans must verify their identity with a selfie and answer some health questions. After arriving, they must show their green health pass on the CLEAR app. Obviously CWU can’t do something as elaborate as this, but it shows how precautions can be taken.

It’d be as easy as testing students prior to graduation day. I also understand some students still may not feel safe in person. Those students could still see their name in the online presentation and just not walk across the stage.

Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona is also allowing a limited number of fans in. We’re seeing this with various sports and even more teams allowing limited fans in, yet we can’t walk across the stage for graduation to receive the recognition we deserve? We saw last week how they had over 25k fans at the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Florida.

It wouldn’t take much to ensure a safe graduation ceremony and it’s honestly more than just a symbolic ceremony. I was really looking forward to walking at Central because in high school I walked with a school I didn’t even go to. I did home connection and Running Start in high school and I can acknowledge that was my own choosing and academically it went great. But to say I was looking forward to walking at a school I actually went to is an understatement.

I can also acknowledge the fact that there are students even more deserving than me of walking across the stage. This especially goes for first generation college students whose families dreamt of the day somebody in their family would walk across a college graduation stage.

It’s already tough enough mentally and academically that most classes are online when news keeps coming out about how it’s safe to be back in the classroom with necessary precautions. Then we get the news we’ll be seeing our name scroll across an advertisement for the school for graduation. While they say we can use this time to make sure it’s more personalized how much more does that really mean? Adding a couple pictures with your name is like putting paper over a broken window to create a temporary fix.

While CWU claims to have spent a great deal of time going through hybrid options, I truly feel that’s an excuse for not wanting to take the time to brainstorm or even reach out to students for input. They claim it’s not possible to bring thousands of people into town which makes sense, but that isn’t even necessary for an in-person hybrid graduation ceremony. I understand that they have to abide by the state and regional health departments. However, schools need to wake up and tell the state that it’s possible to let their students walk across the stage.

Speeches can be done online while small groups are called to walk across the stage. Instead of having large groups staged in the SURC and at Tomlinson Stadium, students should stay in their apartment, dorm or wherever they’re residing at the time. Students could be grouped by their last name in small groups such as A through B or C. When the last group of each set of students gets close to finishing, the next set of students could be called to stage whether by text, email, on the radio at 88.1 The Burg or even scheduled staging.

Instead of having parents and family members attend, you could have a photographer staged nearby to take their picture which would be sent to them later in digital format or printed and sent in mail with their real diploma later after the ceremony.

We deserve to hear our name called, walk across the stage to receive the diploma from school officials to be recognized for our hard work and switch the tassel on our cap to the other side. I truly feel by seeing how other institutions have handled graduation ceremonies during these unprecedented times that it’s possible for this to happen.

Just take a look at the responses on social media to the announcement of graduation being online. They really show how there are a lot of other students and even parents that feel it could be done in person, even in a small capacity like I’ve laid out.