President Teresa Amott addressed the campus in an email earlier this month announcing the college will postpone its 2020 Commencement ceremony for graduating seniors. Commencement was originally scheduled for Sunday, June 7. The new date for the graduation ceremony remains undetermined. Amott wrote it will depend upon public health measures in three months’ time whether the ceremony can be rescheduled to early August.
“While the actual date of the ceremony has been postponed, however, it is vitally important to honor the achievements of this year’s graduating students and the unprecedented challenges they are facing in their final term,” Amott wrote.
Senior class president Courtney Pletcher said she has been working towards commencement for the past four years. She is disappointed that she and her peers will not be able to walk across the stage in June, but she expected this outcome.
“The only thing that makes me feel better is having a commencement sometime in the future,” Pletcher said. “As long as there is a commencement.”
Pletcher is a student representative for the planning of commencement. She and other senior class officers were delegated to help Knox staff plan senior week. During spring break, before classes started, Pletcher received an email from Amott anticipating commencement’s postponement. Pletcher and senior class Treasurer Amanda Espinosa met with Amott and Vice President of Student Development Anne Erlich on a video call to advocate for the class.
Pletcher asked to make sure commencement is not completely canceled, as it has been at some other colleges. She asked for clear communication from Knox staff and for the school to try to retain as much tradition as possible—such as the senior toast and senior pumphandle.
Espinosa said that if commencement is postponed until August, it will still be difficult for seniors who would be starting jobs at the end of the summer, or family who cannot get off work. Espinosa said that she and Pletcher are working to plan some kind of virtual event in June to commemorate the end of the class college careers, but what exactly that will look like remains in progress.
Espinosa said it is unlikely it will be a live, meet-up event but that they would like to coordinate with professors and staff members to acknowledge roles seniors have played at the school. Espinosa considered looking at how students in the Knox College Choir or Creative Writing department have their own senior traditions and looking into how those can be incorporated.
“I think we want to do something that has the seniors actively involved and try to do a lot of the certain ceremonial things of graduation besides the commencement ceremony,” Espinosa said. “A lot of different majors and different programs have their own sort of things that they do for their group of seniors that are graduating, so we are trying to coordinate with a lot of those different departments and groups to see what they want to do and if they want to do virtual versions of those if nothing else.”
Besides the deferment of commencement, Pletcher said quarantine procedure orders have disrupted other important components of senior year. Seniors in theatre and dance will not get last performances nor will the class get their last Flunk Day, which Pletcher would have helped plan.
“Having senior Spring Term being taken away is really heartbreaking for me and for many of my friends. At the time of us leaving for spring break, a lot of us were under the impression we might be able to come back in May but that changed very quickly. We didn’t really have the opportunity to say bye to many of our underclassmen friends and faculty and staff.” Pletcher said.
Pletcher said this is why it is so important that the senior class can get some sort of commencement, be it not in June, but some time and somehow for certain.
“From what I can understand, there is an overall feeling of disappointment and sadness (in the class) but also an understanding of why all these decisions are being made so we’re grieving in a way, this loss, but still at an understanding and we can get some sense of closure if we’re able to close our chapter at Knox through a commencement,” Pletcher said.