Students react to news of virtual 2021 commencement


Credit: UVA Today

Alexandra Puga, Executive Editor

Graduating seniors received an email on March 11 from President Marvin Krislov informing them that the 2021 Commencement Ceremony will be held virtually. 

The email explained that an outdoor event at the football field on the Pleasantville campus, an option presented in a previous survey that seniors received in February, would not be possible.

Options such as Citi Field and Yankee Stadium were considered, but New York restrictions would not permit it. The spaces are also unavailable as they are being used as vaccination centers. 

University senior Meghan Newcombe said, “If you Google Pace 2021 graduation, there’s nothing. No information. It’s just like… ‘stay tuned!’ and that’s kind of hard considering that I live out of state and have to plan arrival and figure out a place to stay in the midst of a pandemic if I want to go.”

The 2021 Commencement Committee gathered to plan graduation at the same scheduled time as previous years, but the last seniors heard of commencement plans was when they received a survey regarding possible ceremony outcomes.

The miscommunication and frustration students have felt about this process were on display when an inaccurate Instagram post announced that cap and gown orders were due the next day, despite a lack of communication from the administration.

In regards to the communication between the University and students before the official announcement, University senior Lily Hook shared, “I think Pace has done a good job communicating possible graduation plans with seniors. I appreciate the effort put into creating a student survey to gather opinions!”

University senior Tatum Cordy said, “I’m looking forward to graduating and moving into a new phase of my life. Though it’s super nerve-racking to begin actual adult life, I’m a big fan of trial by fire.”

As of March 10, two months before expected graduation, students were still unaware of any plans regarding the ceremonies. Cordy added, “It’s disappointing to see the University is still unprepared even with a year of the pandemic under their belt. Students and their families just want basic answers!”

COVID-19 restrictions mandated by Governor Cuomo have begun to be lifted for certain events, including sports and indoor dining.

While students hoped for the University to secure a safe and enjoyable ceremony for each campus, Krislov explained this is not plausible with the current social distancing measures, travel restrictions, increase need for testing, temperature checks and other COVID-19 precautions. 

University seniors Carter Boyd and Alex West attended a meeting with the Commencement Committee, members of the administration, SGA representatives and President Krislov.

After Boyd and West pushed for answers and more involvement, Boyd said, “What makes me the most upset about this entire situation is the total lack of transparency.”

Boyd continued, “What I am upset about is that all decisions regarding our graduation were made without student involvement. I am upset about the fact that the commencement committee is composed by administrators that are so far removed from the importance of a graduation.” After the meeting and several emails, Boyd was still left with unanswered questions. 

West presented President Krislov and SGA Senior Representatives with three options in lieu of a virtual graduation ceremony.

She explained, “It would have been one thing if the administration would have worked with New York City students to get a feel of what they wanted. The truth is they didn’t.”

In the recent meeting also in attendance were Pleasantville campus students. West said, “It turns out Pleasantville students were informed for months on progress reports and involved in the process.”

“President Krislov helped Carter and I get involved. He made a really big show to me personally that he cared about students being involved,” she continued, “but they [commencement committee] excluded students from the conversation of modality and didn’t actually care what we had to say, they did not seek out student opinions and then form a decision, they had their mind made up.”

“My biggest takeaway is that they also told us that there is a budget of over $200,000 for commencement. The literal quote was ‘money is not an issue’ and for me hearing that as someone who is a low-income student… it was difficult to hear because if money isn’t an issue, why did they raise our tuition” said West. 

The University is “eager to hear” from students for ideas to improve the virtual commencement. Students can email  [email protected] with their suggestions. 

The email ends with, “even though we won’t gather in-person to celebrate, please remember that your accomplishment is no less significant. If anything, it’s more so. You worked hard, you persevered, and you’ll finish the year despite tremendous challenges. You’re nearly to graduation, and we couldn’t be prouder of you.”

Aside from the email, President Krislov said to The Pace Press, “I am as frustrated as the students but we will make it the best possible experience we can. We welcome suggestions on how we can do that.”