Seniors react to commencement cancellation

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Image courtesy of University of Pittsburgh

Pitt has postponed the spring commencement ceremony.

By Benjamin Nigrosh, Assistant News Editor

Instead of echoing with the voices of Pitt’s latest graduates, the Petersen Events Center will be empty this coming graduation season.

Senior Andrew Grimes said this was the most disappointing part of his final year at Pitt.

“I recently heard ‘Sweet Caroline’ playing on the radio and immediately broke down after realizing that I probably won’t get to sing, hold hands and chant ‘Let’s Go Pitt!’ with my fellow graduates,” Grimes said in an email.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the postponement of Pitt’s spring commencement ceremony in a March 17 email. According to the announcement, the University has yet to find a new date for an in-person commencement ceremony and has not yet announced alternatives to the event.

Xinyu Lu, a senior psychology and communication major, said the announcement came as a particular disappointment for her, since this would be the first time that her parents would be visiting Pittsburgh from China.

“They were so excited about that,” Lu said. “I was recommending all kinds of restaurants and thinking about all kinds of pictures I would want to take with them.”

What’s more, Lu said being so far from her family has made dealing with the anxiety of the global pandemic much more difficult.

“Personally, I was feeling okay, but my parents were very upset,” Lu said. “They don’t know how to help me. They can’t just fly here and save my life.”

Albert Tanjaya, senior computer science major, similarly said the University’s commencement decision was devastating not only for him, but his family as well.

“I am a first-generation college student,” Tanjaya said. “So walking, graduating in the spring of 2020 held a lot of sentimental value to me in the sense that this is an experience that I would be the first in my family to do so.”

According to Tanjaya, commencement was supposed to be the bookend to his college experience where he would be able to adequately express his gratitude to the friends and family who brought him to that point.

“The whole point of walking is to showcase my achievements to my parents who worked so hard to do this, as well as for me to be able to walk with my friends who I’m graduating with,” Tanjaya said.

Pradhita Kolluru, a senior health information management major, said commencement for her was going to be an opportunity to reward herself for everything she has done during her time at Pitt.

“It’s kind of like a time to relax and pat yourself on the back for everything you’ve done,” Kolluru said. “That’s how I view commencement and graduation. It’s just kind of your stepping-stone into adulting.”

As far as solutions go, all of the students felt stuck.

“I have no idea how to turn an in-person commencement into a virtual event,” Tanjaya said. “That is — I don’t think we’re even ready for that.”

With major events like commencement being cancelled, Lu said, the intensity of the situation has gradually become more real. According to Lu, she has become much more aware of her surroundings as a result of the growing paranoia.

“Especially when I’m wearing a mask outside, I kind of feel like some people look at me in a way like I’m dirty,” Lu said. “I don’t know if dirty is the right word, but I think people take a long time to look at me because I’m wearing an N95 mask.”

Lu said the tension among the public has caused her a lot of discomfort, and she hopes that the University will use its place in the Pittsburgh community to educate its citizens on the best way forward out of the pandemic.

Though the cancellation of commencement is disappointing, Lu said, she reminds herself to try and think about the situation as the complex, uncharted territory that it is.

“As a student, it’s easy to see from a student’s perspective,” Lu said. “It is very hard to see what this looks like from a University perspective.”

Kolluru agreed and said while the release of new information may be slow, she trusts the University’s judgement.

“They’re just honestly trying to do it for the betterment of society and their staff and the students,” Kolluru said. “Shutting things down. I totally understand lockdown.”

Ultimately, Kolluru said, the most important thing is to ensure the safety of students, staff and all of Pittsburgh.

“I hope that everyone can stay in lockdown for the time being and quarantine themselves if they need to and make sure we don’t spread anything else so that we don’t hinder our progress or future plans any further,” Kolluru said.

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