Students Frustrated over Virtual Commencement

Youngstown State University
Photo by C. Aileen Blaine

By C. Aileen Blaine

There will be no “Pomp and Circumstance” echoing through Beeghly Center this December. Instead, Youngstown State University’s fall 2020 commencement ceremony will be held virtually.

Graduating seniors are expressing their dissatisfaction regarding a virtual ceremony. Several created and signed petitions to fight for an in-person graduation ceremony.

Ross Mymo, an allied health senior, said he feels seniors should have some form of in-person graduation ceremony. 

“I just feel there should be some kind of walk. If it’s one college a day or just only students allowed and start at 9 a.m. and do it that way for all day,” he said. “Seeing everyone that worked so hard and not having that experience of walking across the stage and take that picture with President Tressel,” he said, takes away from the full participation an in-person ceremony offers.

Mahoning County rapidly trends toward Level 4 status, meaning exposure and spread of the virus is high and activities should be limited as much as possible. Crossing into Level 4 could mean residents should only leave their homes for supplies and services. 

In a statement addressed to graduating seniors by Provost Brien Smith, the university’s virtual event will be held Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.

“We would love nothing more than to celebrate with our graduates and their guests in person,” the statement reads. “The current climate of uncertainty, however, makes that impossible.”

Seniors signed petitions to encourage YSU to hold an in-person fall commencement instead of the virtual event already planned. Photo by C. Aileen Blaine

Jackie LeViseur, director of Alumni and Events, said the university is following recommendations set by Gov. Mike DeWine and state and local health departments to keep students and their guests safe. 

“I think our students understand the current climate and that we cannot jeopardize their health and safety and that of their families and friends. They are tough and will join their fellow graduates in virtually celebrating their accomplishments,” she said.

Current plans for the ceremony include speeches made by YSU President Jim Tressel, Provost Smith, featured speakers and the college deans. A virtual presentation will be shown, and a social media campaign is being created for the event as well. 

Mckenzie Cooper, an allied health senior, said she’s comfortable with not having an in-person commencement this semester. 

“Sure, it might be cool to have 10 seconds of ‘your time to shine,’ but it’s really not worth it. I’d rather celebrate by taking pictures with my family and going out to eat,” she said. “I’m also not big on tradition for the sake of tradition, though!”

She said contracting the coronavirus isn’t a risk she’s willing to take.

“I’d rather not risk anything with COVID. Myself and a few other family members are high risk, so why celebrate in person when it could be dangerous? A phone call is safer and a better use of my time.”

LeViseur said graduating seniors should know faculty at YSU are proud of their academic accomplishments, determination, resilience and perseverance.

“We applaud their success and know that they have what it takes to accomplish anything they set out to do,” she said.