Pandemic graduation

Pandemic graduation cartoon 

This is the sixth and last piece in a series of first-person accounts of how students are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, written by the Reveille's opinion columnists.  

As the early weeks of May slowly approach, I, along with many others, see our last undergraduate days quietly go by. It is still uncertain what graduation will look like at LSU, and at universities across the country. I cannot help but feel as though the lack of a graduation ceremony is overblown and has been turned into a bigger issue than it is.

As many people of older generations look upon the current circumstances of college seniors, they are quick to say that the class of 2020 is being robbed of a major part of the “college experience.” However, it is arguable that the college experience was already dying to begin with and that graduating students are less upset about the potential lack of a graduation than parents and grandparents are.

The idea that a university degree is necessary for the general public is a relatively new concept, surging in popularity after WWII, when parents started to seriously push their children to get an undergraduate degree. Since this perception of undergraduate degrees as necessary first consumed the American public, tuition rates have risen to the point that affordable university credits have become available outside of universities.

Now, rather than beginning as new students embarking on a four-year journey into education, many start their university with credits earned in high school or at a local community college to save money. Furthermore, the romantic image of lofty wooden halls, endless shelves of books and study group best friends have been replaced with online learning, PDF textbooks and study pajamas.

Certainly student athletes, band members and Greek life will be upset at the lack of a graduation ceremony at many schools across the U.S. However, there are plenty of students who simply see the university experience as a necessary struggle in order to be competitive in whatever is left of the job market.

Frankly, the students we should feel sorry for are the ones that financed their own education. Either by loans or by military service, they paid for an education with a guarantee of a graduation ceremony upon completion, and if anyone was ripped off in this pandemic, it was them.

I myself am not too heartbroken if the University does not schedule a graduation for my class. However, what does upset me is that while I do not care if I walk across a stage, I have aging grandparents that do. Upon graduation, I will have finished my grandparents’ record of having all their grandchildren graduate college. In other words, my graduation means more to them than it does me, and as time goes by, it will not be as easy getting my older relatives to come to Baton Rouge and see me graduate.

In conclusion, I do not think the potential lack of a graduation ceremony is as terrible as many make it out to be. More relatives care about it than students do. If anything, it is a time to say goodbyes to friends one may never see again, but thankfully we live in an internet-connected world, and it isn't hard to stay in touch.

For those who are worried about not having a ceremony, we will get through this. Our education was never about walking across a stage. For those who have graduated, please stop posting pictures on your Facebook pages; these posts are not helping as much as they are rubbing it in and calling for attention.

Ceremony or not, our education is in our hearts and minds, not on a piece of paper or a walk across a stage. As for my fellow Tigers, we never needed a ceremony to show that we are great. It was in us from the very start.

Brett Landry is a 21-year-old political communication senior from Bayou Petit Caillou, Louisiana.

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