Students await Marquette decision on graduation ceremonies amid COVID-19

Commencement+will+take+place+August+30.%0A%0APhoto+courtesy+of+the+Office+of+Marketing+and+Communication.

Commencement will take place August 30. Photo courtesy of the Office of Marketing and Communication.

A decision about Marquette’s spring graduation ceremonies and related activities will not be made sooner than April 10, according to the university’s COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 is a contagious disease recently labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. It causes symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marquette University spokesperson Chris Stolarski said MU will follow up-to-date guidance about mass gatherings from public health officials.

Stolarski said Marquette will consider input from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Milwaukee Health Department and the Marquette Medical Clinic.

“In any event, the university will exercise an abundance of caution, putting first the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty, staff and guests,” Stolarski said in an email.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers directed the Department of Health Services to issue an emergency order Tuesday that limited all gatherings to less than 10 people. It also ordered restaurants and bars to close inside dining and seating.

Some colleges across the country announced cancelations of graduation ceremonies.

Carroll University, a private institution in Waukesha, Wisconsin, moved its graduation to a virtual ceremony scheduled for May 9. Waukesha County Technical College canceled its spring graduation ceremonies.

The University of Michigan announced March 13 that its graduation ceremonies would no longer take place. The university said it would “look at ways to celebrate 2020 graduates in the future.” The University of Minnesota postponed its graduation ceremonies and is accepting student ideas for alternatives on its website.

Brittany Hinkle, a Marquette senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she is concerned that university administration is not releasing much information about graduation.

“They haven’t really said what any of the options are, which is a little frustrating because I know I have out-of-town guests coming in,” she said.

Hinkle said she has worked for the past four years for this one final event, and she might not get closure on her college career.

“I understand if the ceremony can’t take place since it is a risk having that many people in one area at a time,” Hinkle said. “I know a lot of people’s grandparents are coming and the elderly population is the most at risk during those, but I would want some sort of event to happen.”

She said Marquette could hold its ceremony online or do something else in lieu of an in-person graduation.

Hinkle said she wants the university to be more transparent with its decision regarding commencement before it reevaluates options in April.

Shannon O’Connor, a Marquette senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she is concerned she will not get to say goodbye to the friends she made in her four years at the university.

Although O’Connor remains in Milwaukee, a lot of her friends are not returning.

“After the semester is over, I don’t know when we’re going to get to see each other again,” she said.

O’Connor said she anticipates the university will not be able to do commencement. She said it may not be a smart decision to have the in-person ceremony.

“I’m still really upset because these are people I’ve spent the last four years with,” O’Connor said. “The idea that I’m not going to get to see them for a long time and I don’t know when I am going to see them next is kind of scary.”

This story was written by Annie Mattea. She can be reached at anne.mattea@marquette.edu.