While UBC has released no definitive graduation plans, the university’s announcement that the second term of the 2020/21 school year will mostly be held online and the increase of active cases of COVID-19 in BC suggest the possibility of a virtual graduation ceremony for the class of 2021.
“Having the ceremony in real life would be nice, especially because I’m an international student and I’ve paid a lot to attend UBC. Graduation isn’t just for me, it’s more for my family. I would’ve liked my family to come and attend,” said Sarah Sunarko, a fourth-year psychology student.
President Santa Ono announced in a September 17 email that this year’s fall graduation would remain virtual, with an online event scheduled for November 25, 2020.
UBC will plan the upcoming spring 2021 graduation ceremonies in accordance with public health guidelines, Liz King, director of UBC ceremonies and events said in a statement to The Ubyssey.
“It is too early to say what spring 2021 graduation plans will be at this time,” King said.
UBC has given no updates on its promised in-person graduation ceremony for the class of 2020. In accordance with President Santa Ono’s announcement on March 26, King stated that “plans to bring the class of 2020 back for an in-person ceremony will also be made in accordance with public health guidelines when it is deemed safe to hold large in-person events and gatherings.”
Monica Anand, a fourth-year biology student who attended the class of 2020 virtual graduation ceremony, said she does have high expectations for the 2021 ceremony if UBC were to host it virtually. “I do hope that there are more efforts put into it. Last year, it was last minute, but there’s more time to plan this year.”
“It is a bit disappointing,” said Anand when asked how she feels about possible virtual graduation. “We’ve worked four, five years very hard to come to a ceremony and it definitely means a lot.”
Anand hopes to see smaller graduation sessions in the spring so that the experience feels more personalized for all the graduates.
Hanah Dhanani, a fourth-year forestry student set to graduate in the spring of 2021, said that she did consider delaying graduation because of the prospect of virtual graduation — but online instruction in her final semester at UBC was an even larger factor.
The uncertainty surrounding whether UBC could return to in-person instruction in the following semesters prevented Dhanani from taking time off.
“For forestry, you need a lot of hands-on knowledge … it’s impossible to do it online. I’m paying more than I was last year but learning significantly less,” said Dhanani.
Overall, Anand, Sunarko and Dhanani agreed that a virtual graduation may be the safest and best option for the class of 2021 in these challenging times.
“I think that some unexpected things happen, [but] we’ve learned ways and UBC has provided us tools to make the best of it,” said Anand.