Seniors disappointed as graduation ceremonies go virtual at USF

Walking across the stage at commencement and becoming a college graduate is a moment thousands of students look forward to. For seniors at the University of South Florida, their ceremony in May will now be virtual and most of them are understandably disappointed.

The school's leaders said they anticipate the novel coronavirus pandemic, and resulting statewide closures, will not allow for traditional graduation ceremonies to take place.

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USF announced the plans Tuesday, saying any spring graduates who do not get to participate in a traditional commencement ceremony will have the opportunity to walk in August during summer graduation.

Seniors said it just won’t be the same.

“It was disappointing, but at the same time, I think I was prepared for it. I think we all kinda expected it to happen,” USF elementary education major Christine Otero explained.

It’s a milestone for Otero and her classmates that will be anything but typical.

“If anything, your graduation is more meaningful because of these challenges and the way that you have overcome them,” said USF President Steve Currall.

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Many seniors are still disappointed they won’t get that final walk across the stage with their loved ones in the crowd.

“My family is actually from Pennsylvania so they had already booked all their tickets and we were planning a graduation dinner and all that stuff, so it’s definitely been a huge change,” said USF criminology major Shaelyn Weida. “I feel like months later it’s just not gonna feel the same and it’s kinda like I already got my diploma in May so is there really a point in even walking in August.”

Officials say virtual commencement ceremonies will be held May 9 for each USF campus and will include award recognitions and remarks from school leaders, just like a traditional in-person graduation.

The university is also giving seniors the option to take part in summer commencement ceremonies planned for august.

“you’ve paid enough money to be in college and you’ve worked hard enough, you deserve to be able to walk and it sucks that some people aren’t going to be able to do that in August,” Otero said.

USF says more details about May commencement will come out in the next few weeks, including a way for graduates to interact over social media.

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