The music, the tassels, and the extra hot, long robes under a beaming set of lights in a room packed with hundreds of people is a right of passage for graduating students. Convocation is an experience many students wish to have, but unfortunately, this long-running tradition has fallen victim to the plethora of cancellations and closures that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a statement released by President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton on August 13, in-person convocation had to be postponed this fall after careful consideration.
“Given the ongoing public health concerns resulting from COVID-19 and the restrictions on public gatherings, York made the difficult decision not to hold in-person fall convocation ceremonies,” Deputy Spokesperson Yanni Dagonas, says. “We know that many graduates along with their proud families and friends will be disappointed by this news.”
Convocation is a culmination of those long nights writing last-minute assignments, and gruelling hours spent bent over a textbook, all in the name of shaking the hands of York’s most prestigious staff, and beginning the next step of your life.
Alex Greenberg, a recent psychology graduate and current nursing student, says he is disappointed by the cancellation, but understands why convocation was cancelled.
“Obviously convocation is a big part of anyone’s educational experience and I would have loved to experience it. However, I think everyone’s safety during the pandemic is critical and most are okay with postponing/cancelling convocation,” Greenberg says.
Echoing his sentiments is recent psychology graduate, Chrysa Dancey.
“I was looking forward to convocation to celebrate my years of study at York, and so of course it was disappointing not to have it in-person,” Dancey says. “Even though it’s disappointing, given the COVID-19 situation, it was understandable and the responsible thing to do,” she adds.
Convocation is a culmination of those long nights writing last-minute assignments, and gruelling hours spent bent over a textbook, all in the name of shaking the hands of York’s most prestigious staff, and beginning the next step of your life. But for this year’s graduates, they’ll experience this from their own homes, should they choose to do so.
“Staff are working to create a memorable virtual event and we will have more details to share about our virtual convocation plans in the coming weeks,” Dagonas says.
To mitigate the disappointment of missing convocation, Dagonas says York has been sending out graduation packages with goodies, including the degree, cap and tassel, confetti, and other gifts.
When it is safe to do so, York will be extending invitations to all graduates for an in-person ceremony.
While it isn’t the same as an in-person ceremony, Dancey says the package was certainly efficient in getting her degree and cap to her.
Moving forward, it’s unclear what convocation will look like exactly. With case numbers spiking in recent weeks, nobody can know for sure whether the province could impose further restrictions on gatherings and closures within the economy. And, nobody can know when the province will be able to reopen completely.
However, when it is safe to do so, Dagonas says York is extending invitations to all graduates for an in-person ceremony.
“We look forward to hosting all of the graduates affected by COVID-19 at an in-person ceremony,” Dagonas says. “While the convocation ceremony and celebration will not be the same as in years past, the hard work and success of our graduates are not diminished in any way. Indeed, graduating amidst a global pandemic is a testament to the perseverance and determination of York students.”
Regarding her graduation, Dancey is remaining realistic about the pandemic.
“Moving forward, I have made peace with the fact that there will unlikely be a makeup convocation for 2020 graduates, as COVID-19 cases could randomly increase and spark another lock down,” Dancey says. “The future is too unpredictable to get my hopes up.”