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“Bittersweet doesn’t even come close”: Seniors Respond To Cancelled Commencement

Three months ago (or, wait, was that just a few week?), Baylor made a decision that changed the academic lives of current seniors. Administrative leaders decided to postpone the May 2020 commencement.

“With the CDC’s Sunday guidance that no mass gatherings with 50 people or more should be held in the United States for the next eight weeks, our May Commencement ceremonies have been impacted and unfortunately postponed. I share in the disappointment for all of our students on pace to graduate in May. Please know that Baylor will still confer degrees in May for those who satisfy their academic requirements. We also know how meaningful it is for graduates to walk across the stage at Commencement, and we plan to extend that opportunity to our spring graduates at an August ceremony,” President Livingstone’s statement said.

As the world continues to scramble in attempts to contain and subdue COVID-19, administrators are taking necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the community.

Everyone who has graduated from college knows “walking the stage” is one of the biggest accomplishments of your life. This culmination of college is a person’s first step into a new life.

For many seniors, news of postponing the ceremony brought a more personal reality to the global pandemic.

“Bittersweet doesn’t even come close to describing the feelings right now. The four years I’ve put into earning my degree couldn’t have had a more abrupt ending. On one hand I’m glad that we are taking precaution and safety with our health, but on the other, I can’t help but feel sad that I didn’t know the last class I ever took as an undergrad occurred before spring break,” said Houston senior Erick Campos (‘20).

For some seniors, commencement was a moment to celebrate a hard-won victory. Miami senior Natasha Gaitan (‘20) said she was looking forward to recognizing her achievement because of what it meant not only to her but to her family.

“I understand that spring commencement being postponed is for the well-being of our community, however, that doesn’t make this any easier. I am a first generation student and getting to walk at graduation in May was something I have been looking forward to for a long time. Baylor is my home and it is heart-shattering that I won’t be able to be there for the last couple months I had as a student. This will all be for the greater good of our families and I know that I will always fling my green and gold from afar,” Gaitan said.

Waco senior Andrew Gochis (‘20) illuminated a positive side of the postponement. As he took into consideration all of those in our community, he offered a unique standpoint.

“[I plan] on being a coach [and] this event has taken the saying ‘play every game like it’s your last’ to a whole new level. It has helped me put into perspective how quickly something can be taken just like that. That being said, with my mom being part of the president’s council and getting to hear her after the decision was made, it makes sense. I will miss Dia, sports, and so many other great events that Baylor puts on year in and year out. I would trade any of those though for not losing a professor I respect because they got sick. I have a feeling that Baylor will do everything [it] can to make this up. You can replace missed memories with creative alternatives. You can’t replace people,” Gochis said.

As this situation has continued, Zambales, Philippines senior Auster-Philip Guab (‘20) has some regrets about choices he made as a student.

“We are now facing the reality of the situation and it’s been a hard pill for everyone to swallow. Face-to-face learning with both professors and our classmates stopped at such an abrupt pace and even more inconvenient time that none of us really got to say goodbye to some people who we may never see again after college. It leaves us with the feeling of no closure. All those moments of waking up and deciding not to go to class just because I was too tired, too drained, or too lazy. All those moments and now I suddenly feel like I’ve wasted and have taken them for granted,” Guab said.

Although many students are sad, many understand the need for May’s commencement to be postponed, especially when considering the health of families, faculty, and students themselves.

“I think it was smart of Baylor to postpone the commencement. They did the right thing and are trying to protect their students and their families. But, I can’t help but feel like graduation will be different when we do it after we’ve been in the ‘real world’ for a few months. However, despite these concerns I know Baylor did the right thing and we need to do whatever we can to combat COVID-19,” said Sacromaento senior Sara-Kate Pirnik (‘20).

Lawton, Oklahoma, senior Jazz Aurora (‘20) was already concerned about attending graduation.

“Due to health and personal reasons, it’s been difficult to attend class. For further personal reasons, I didn’t really feel like attending the graduation ceremony. I know everyone else is pretty broken up about the whole situation, but, as animmunocompromised person, I’m honestly relieved,” Aurora said.

As the world moves into the difficulty that COVID-19 brings, everyone must remember why these hard decisions are happening: safety.

“It’s okay to be upset,” Guab advised. “But what’s important now is that we are seeing God work through this tragedy. We as a society, community, country, and even globally, are forced to adapt and overcome an unprecedented event. Now is the time for us to pray for those affected. Pray for our leaders and that God works through those individuals so that they can make the hard decisions that not everyone will agree with but will still prove to produce the best outcome for everyone.”

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