Kenyon recently announced that it intends to move the class of 2021’s Commencement from May 22 to May 8. The executive staff of the Collegian is disappointed by this decision.
The choice of date is questionable, at best. Not only is May 8 the Saturday before final exams, but it’s also three days before classes end. Seniors need to pass their exams and finish their semesters before they can realistically feel free to celebrate the end of their Kenyon career; this date does not accommodate this important studying time.
Even in a year as difficult as this one, other colleges and universities have announced their intention to hold graduation celebrations after the semester ends. For example, Oberlin College has announced its plan to have its Senior Celebration on May 14, after their final exams end on May 13. Similarly, The Ohio State University plans to have its commencement ceremony for its class of 2021 on May 9 after its last day of exams on April 30.
President Decatur has said that this move to May 8 was intended to hold an in-person gathering before the “bubble” is broken during finals week as students move in and out. While we are more than sympathetic to Kenyon’s concerns about health and safety, we do not see the issue in hosting a responsible, socially distanced gathering at a more convenient time.
Moving the date of Commencement from May 22 to May 8 also means that seniors will not be able to receive their diplomas on the day of the ceremony, because they will have not yet finished their studies at Kenyon (diplomas instead will be shipped to students after the semester). While it is true that Oberlin will also not be presenting graduating seniors with their diplomas on the day of the celebration, other schools, such as the University of Notre Dame and Kean University, will be handing out diplomas on the day of graduation.
In an article published in Inside Higher Ed, President of Kean University Lamont Repollet recalled his own experience as a college graduate receiving his diploma. “It was the greatest moment in my life,” he said. “If we can give that to our students, all students, but more so those individuals who had the perseverance and the grit to finish, that’s important.”
We agree with Repollet, and are saddened to learn that Kenyon seems not to have considered the importance of this significant, yet poignant, moment in one’s college career.
Surely Kenyon College, with a student body of nearly 2,000 students (almost 5,000 students fewer than Kean University’s student population and almost 7,000 students fewer than Notre Dame) and a graduating class this year of only 335, can plan a safe post-exams graduation ceremony, complete with the distribution of diplomas.
By May, the class of 2021 will have just successfully completed an immensely difficult academic year. Kenyon’s 2021 Commencement does not give seniors the chance to freely celebrate their accomplishment without anxieties about final exams and the end of classes.
We ask Kenyon’s administration to reconsider their decision about Commencement for the class of 2021. We understand that COVID-19 has made all our lives exceedingly difficult and that institutions of higher education must make some sacrifices. But Kenyon is a college that values community, a campus full of people who genuinely care about one another. In that light, it is especially disappointing that the administration announced this decision without consulting the graduating class and their families. As the administration has frequently said, if we are truly to get through this pandemic again, it will take a community effort. Let’s celebrate having completed this awful year, and let’s do it together joyfully after the semester ends.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Jackson Wald ‘22 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.