Art by Madeline Duvall
On Sept. 4, the Seaver Dean’s Office asked 2020 graduates and the upcoming class of 2021 graduates to plan for in-person graduation ceremonies for May 21 and 22, respectively.
Last spring, the class of 2020 went without an in-person graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now, the Malibu campus and Los Angeles County face guidelines restricting large group gatherings. The Seaver Dean’s Office, however, said it remains hopeful that a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 will soon emerge, allowing an in-person graduation ceremony to take place with necessary health precautions.
If no vaccine emerges and the Malibu campus is still under orders not to gather in person, the Dean’s Office said a traditional graduation ceremony will not take place, though it is unclear what a remote ceremony would look like.
“We really want to honor all of the class of 2020 and class of 2021 graduates,” said Lexi Palma, manager of administrative services in the Seaver Dean’s Office. “They’re really pushing to have an actual ceremony because we know how important that is for the graduates. But safety is obviously the most important thing.”
The Dean’s Office surveyed 569 members of the class of 2020. Seventy percent of respondents indicated their preferred option for graduation is May 2021, 91% of respondents indicated an in-person graduation is “important or very important” to them and 81% of respondents indicated they preferred a May 2021 graduation ceremony over a virtual commencement or an indoor ceremony this December.
Alumna Lucy Poore (2020) said if there is an in-person graduation ceremony this coming May, she will go, but she remains skeptical due to present circumstances.
“I’m super excited, and I hope it works out and it’s safe for everyone to go, but I also feel a bit hesitant that it’s actually going to happen,” Poore said.
Senior Erica Lewis said while she wants an in-person graduation ceremony to celebrate the hard work she has done at Pepperdine, she still has safety concerns. Lewis’ mother is at risk for contracting COVID-19, and while Lewis said she wants her family to be at the ceremony, she doesn’t want to expose them to a high-risk situation.
“Normally, I would consider myself more COVID-conscious than maybe the average college student, but at the same time, an in-person graduation is really important to me,” Lewis said. “But a massive event like that is probably pretty serious, so that has me a little nervous, honestly.”
If LA County allows an in-person graduation to take place, the ceremony will be outdoors on Alumni Park, Palma said. Other details, however, are still up in the air.
“We should know more, closer to the event, what protocols are still in place at that time,” Palma said. “Doing graduation safely is the most important thing. If there are recommendations that people are still distant, they will find a way to make that happen. Other things, like keeping the hand sanitizer stations frequent and things like that, will probably be implemented.”
Palma said there is an event-planning team closely observing how other schools and businesses are holding conferences and large events to establish best practices to keep attendees safe.
Palma said many details of the graduation ceremonies will likely not be determined until closer to May. If large groups are still unable to gather on campus, Seaver College may consider virtual graduation ceremonies, Palma said.
“Obviously, virtual is better than nothing,” Poore said. “I think it would be meaningful, but I don’t think it would be the same.”
The Seaver Dean’s Office, while urging students and graduates to save the date for May of 2021, said students should still hold off on purchasing non-refundable travel arrangements like plane tickets and hotel accommodations until early spring.
Updates on graduation ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021 are available on the Graduation Information website.
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