Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students, families and friends sign a petition to reschedule the annual commencement ceremony for APU graduates.
A petition created on Monday to postpone Azusa Pacific’s May graduation ceremony now has more than 1,200 signatures. The petition came just days after the university announced the ceremony would be canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
According to an email from the Office of the President, the May commencement ceremony was one of several events APU decided to nix due to recent protocols on public gatherings recommended by public health agencies.
“We sincerely regret the need to cancel the Commencement Ceremonies, scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2020, and all related activities,” the office said on Mar. 17. “In keeping with many other colleges and universities, the prospect of significant restrictions to travel and gathering of people means we cannot guarantee our ability to deliver in-person Commencement activities during this period.”
The email also stated that Interim Provost Rukshan Fernando and his office will work with the Student Government Association and input from the student body to create alternatives to honor the Class of 2020.
According to APU’s commencement webpage, the administration is also discussing whether participation in a future commencement is a possible alternative.
“Please rest assured that discussions regarding an alternate celebration for affected graduates is already underway, and information about the possibility of future commencement participation is forthcoming,” the university said.
The petition was developed and posted on change.org by senior English major Brianna Swinney. Within 16 hours, the petition had 1,000 supporters. On Tuesday, the number climbed to over 1,200, with a goal to reach 1,500.
“As graduating seniors, we feel that this measure is unfair to all seniors and family members of seniors,” Swinney said on the petition website. “While we understand that this decision was made for safety reasons and that the disease is out of the school’s control, the decision to simply cancel commencement instead of postponing [has] left many seniors and their families very unhappy.”
Swinney also took into consideration the cost of tuition and the hard work put in the past four years. Swinney wants the university to “promise” that the ceremony for May graduates would be rescheduled at a later date.
Senior marketing major Sophie Fullen is also unsettled by APU’s decision.
“I’m disappointed and sad,” Fullen said. “It was already sad enough that the school year came to a close early, but the fact that we can’t share that last moment together and with our families is really disheartening.”
Other students that signed on the petition website shared their reasons why postponing the ceremony would be an appropriate solution.
“I’m signing on behalf of my APU family who deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments,” said Brittney Nourian, who graduated in December. “APU created such a tight knit community, and for them to create something so special and give them no celebration or closure upon the end of their time is unfair to everyone who made APU their home. Leaving APU with a graduation ceremony is hard enough, give every student the ceremony they worked so hard to be present at.”
According to senior mathematics major Destiny Razo, the ceremony would be a major milestone not only for her, but her family as well.
“I would have been the first in my family to get my Bachelors degree which means [I would] be able to be part of a commencement … walking means so much more to me, especially for my family who have sacrificed and done so much to get me to college,” said Razo. “I would not be where I am without their support.”
Relatives of graduates, friends and APU alumni expressed why they decided to sign the petition:
“My niece was supposed to graduate this year. She has worked very hard.. she deserves it.. all the seniors do,” said Ana Castillo.
“I want my friend and everyone else to get a chance to walk and celebrate their accomplishments! I understand it’s not safe to be done in May, but what we all are asking for is to RESCHEDULE it perhaps to a safer time,” said Jolia Awadallah.
“I understand the precautions and safety, but there must be some way to ensure that these graduating seniors will be promised a ceremony once our country is in a place of safety,” said Christina Kasali, an APU alumn.
Azusa Pacific joins a growing list of colleges and universities that have cancelled or postponed their commencements.
According to Forbes, the University of California Irvine, and Los Angeles are the current Southern California state schools that have scrapped in-person commencement activities. The University of Southern California will reschedule a live ceremony.