‘Missing out on important milestones:’ grads react to convocation postponement and cancellations

St. Thomas University’s vice-president academic and research, Kim Fenwick, sent an email on March 17 stating the grad dinner, T-Ceremony and the athletics banquet were being cancelled. About a week later, students received an email from STU president Dawn Russell announcing spring convocation is postponed.

Brianne Durant, a fourth-year student and the 2020 grad class president, said over Facebook Messenger that she’s disheartened by the decision.

We, the grad class, worked incredibly hard to get to where we are and to be unable to celebrate in the traditional way as our colleagues who graduated in years before us had the opportunity to, [it] makes it feel like we are missing out on important milestones,” said Durant. 

Despite her sadness, she said she’s trying to remain positive and recognizes these decisions were made with the community’s safety in mind. 

When she talked to the university’s registrar, Karen Preston, about convocation, Preston said the administration was reluctant to cancel the ceremony so early on.

“[Convocation] is a way to celebrate all of our tragedies and triumphs we’ve experienced through our undergraduate careers,” said Durant.

Durant said when things get back to normal, she wants to host a get together with the class of 2020 if people can come back to campus. She wants students to reach out to her via email su_gradclass@stu.ca with any ideas that they have. 

“I think that it is very important for the class of 2020 to keep in mind that convocation, at this point in time, is only postponed. I have full faith in the university that they will come up with a solution that will give us the opportunity to celebrate this milestone in our lives,” said Durant.

Fourth-year student Sam Arthurs said convocation being postponed was inevitable.

“It is disheartening, but also important to recognize that STU made the hard decision in order to keep students safe,” said Arthurs over Facebook Messenger.

Arthurs said it was hard to come to terms at first that the T-Ceremony and grad dinner were cancelled, events students worked towards over the four years or more at STU.

“All my friends who graduated before always said, ‘Just wait for the T-Ceremony, it’s the best time of [the] year’ and to have that taken away so last minute was definitely hard. However, it is no one’s fault,” said Arthurs.

Fourth-year student Manuel Garcia said the decision is what it is, but he’s still crushed. 

“For my particular case, my parents are not going to be able to come [now] so it did affect that sense of [not] having my parents being able to see me in person … [and] to get my diploma,” said Garcia. 

Garcia doesn’t think that anyone was prepared for this to happen.

“I don’t want to use the word heartbreaking because it sounds a bit cliché, but it was like that.”

Garcia is saddened about the event cancellations, especially the grad dinner.  

He said the grad dinner would have been more laid back than convocation. He was looking forward to being around his group of international friends that have been together since first year. He said they were all looking forward to meeting each others’ families and celebrating with them. 

Garcia’s plan after university was to stay in Canada. Some of his international friends were stressing on whether to go home and risk missing convocation or staying here. He said it makes the cancellation of convocation easier on him because travelling home was not something he had to think about.

In an email sent on April 1 to graduating students, it was announced STU would be returning the graduation fee of $50 back to students for “not getting the opportunity to celebrate the completion of our degree the way we anticipated.”

The Grad Class Committee has also implemented the #TCeremony2020 hashtag campaign on social media platforms to give grads the chance to share photos of their T-Rings, T-Pins and favourite STU memories.

“[The hashtag] was a really nice way for people to do what we were going to do at the grad dinner, which was sort of a throwback to our four years. When I was looking at the post, I was just like, well, we’ve definitely come a long way,” said Garcia.

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