Image courtesy of Catholic University’s Instagram page
By Noelia Veras
On June 16, Catholic University’s Instagram page announced that an in-person commencement ceremony would no longer be happening this August. It was not until after this post that an email was sent to the Catholic University community.
The post, which announced the further postponement of the commencement ceremony, received a lot of backlash from students. The post originally said that an email had been sent to the class of 2020 already addressing the issue. Many students commented on the post saying that they had not received an email addressing this. The post has since been edited to say, “Class of 2020, the social media posts about this announcement preceded an email that will be sent today, June 18. We are sorry about the confusion.”
Comments on the post from students expressed similar sentiments of disappointment not only because their commencement would be postponed, but also because they had to find this out via Instagram rather than an official email statement. Students also express the desire to receive a refund for the various graduation fees they have already paid.
“When I saw the Instagram post, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment,” said class of 2020 English and drama double major, Marie Kottenstette. “Again and again, it would seem as though the administration is consistently dropping the ball, on both their handling of Commencement overall and communicating their decisions regarding Commencement with the Class of 2020. This is already a disappointing situation, and we really should not have to deal with being let down by our administration as well.”
The University took responsibility for the lack of appropriate communication with the graduating class.
“To the Class of 2020, I want to apologize for our recent social media announcement regarding commencement,” said the University’s Executive Director of Strategic Communications Karna Lozoya. “We take full responsibility for posting the news online before we sent it out by email to our graduates. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Although many were upset about this incident, some empathized with the administration’s decision, seeing it as an appropriate measure to keep the university community safe and healthy from the pertinent threat of the coronavirus.
“This isn’t a decision CUA made of its own accord or desire,” said recent graduate from the class of 2016 Teresa Morris in a comment on the Instagram post. “It is in response and obedience to the ever changing guidelines put forth by the DC mayor about mass gatherings. Faulting CUA admin for not defying local government when [this] is happening all across the country to thousands of thousands of other college grads seems a bit off.”
The first official announcement addressing commencement was sent on April 2 when students received an email from President Garvey which said that “it will not be possible to hold an in-person Commencement ceremony on May 16. It is also not possible to hold Law School graduation on May 22.” This announcement was made in light of the growing threat of the coronavirus and because of the stay at home orders issued by Washington, D.C.
One month later, University Communication sent an email saying, “In lieu of gathering in person on May 16, 2020, University President John Garvey will confer degrees via a live-streamed event on that date at 10 a.m., as the University continues to maintain public health recommendations for social distancing.”
On May 14, President Garvey sent an email to the members of the Catholic U community highlighting how to tune in and what to expect from the virtual conferral ceremony.
The in-person commencement celebrations were scheduled to take place from August 5-7, but these dates have since been redacted and postponed, although a date has not been announced yet. President Garvey cited ReOpen DC—an initiative proposed by the D.C. government which shows a step-by-step plan to reopen the District in a safe and calculated manner—in his letter to the university that addressed this change of plans, saying that “the District has indicated that it will not approve a gathering of the size we need until a vaccine is developed.”
“Graduation is a major milestone in the lives of our graduates and the loved ones who have supported them on their educational journey,” said Garvey in the latest update about the future of the commencement ceremony. “We are resolved to honor that, not just virtually but live and on campus.”
To receive more information on the adjustments made by Catholic University in light of the coronavirus, visit COVID-19 Updates. To receive more information about how D.C. is responding to the pandemic visit Coronavirus D.C.