2020 graduation ceremony cancelled, sparks petition to refund fees


Loyola University New Orleans

The class of 2020 stands in front of the Loyola sign outside Marquette Hall.

Postponed commencement ceremonies that were set to take place this August have officially been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to an email from University President Tania Tetlow, prompting some students to demand that Loyola refund their graduation fees.

“Our plans to hold a full set of commencement ceremonies on August 6-8 will have to be adjusted to a world where we are still not allowed to have gatherings of more than fifty people,” said Tetlow. 

In place of the 2020 Commencement, the university invites members of the Class of 2020 to participate in the 2021 Commencement or any other commencement ceremony within the next five years, according to the email. There will also be photo opportunity sessions for graduates in August.

“Other than a few words from me, it will include only the part of the ceremony that probably matters the most — hearing your name and walking up for your degree,” said Tetlow regarding the August gatherings. 

These changes to commencement plans have left many members of the Class of 2020 feeling frustrated.

Ariel Hall, A’20, started a petition on Change.org to refund students their graduation fees. According to Hall, the university is refusing to refund the $300 graduation fees after students requested it due to the 2020 Commencement cancellation. 

“When this announcement came out, as far as talking to all my classmates and friends, there’s just been widespread disappointment and a lot of frustration, some anger. And then, just kind of this feeling that we want justice in some way,” said Hall. 

At the time of publication, the petition has 387 signatures. 

“I’m hoping we can gather enough support to get the school to hear us. I feel like when I say this, it tends to kind of come off as annoying, but as I’ve told everyone, I’m a first-generation graduate, and I feel like we needed this graduation to let us know about our accomplishments, and unfortunately, the school can’t accommodate that,” said Shondranell Brown, A’20, who signed the petition. 

Like many other students, Brown is disappointed in the decisions the school has made regarding commencement.

“I don’t think it’s fair to assume that we would be okay with walking with the next class. Honestly, I feel like that takes away from their moment just like it took away from our moment. And unfortunately, the school tried to accommodate the situation, but they can’t. When you’re down you’re down, and you just accept the loss,” said Brown. 

Brown has been advocating for students to sign the petition via Facebook to gain traction. Brown feels that the school did not include students in their decision-making process and did not consider their needs.

“Some people would like to have their money donated to a cause they support, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQIA movement. But personally, I wanted my cap and gown pictures, I don’t want the photo op that the school offers. I want my regalia so my family can celebrate,” said Brown. 

The decisions about commencement have others, like  Madison Settle, A’20, rethinking graduating in the first place.

“I do understand that it’s like a no-win situation. It is really disappointing though. For me, I finished my degree in three years instead of four, so I kind of feel like, ‘Oh man, maybe I shouldn’t have worked so hard, maybe I should’ve waited,’” said Settle, “But it’s not so bad for me though, because I’m going to the law school at Loyola for the next three years, so at least I will get a Loyola graduation.” 

Although many are upset at the university’s decisions, others said that they understand the uncomfortable position they may have been in.

“I celebrated with my family over the weekend of May 9, and between that and the wonderful virtual celebration, I feel like I’ve gotten my closure on my time at Loyola,” said Sophie Trist, A’20 who did not sign the petition.

“I applaud Tania Tetlow’s efforts to give us that special moment, and I don’t at all blame her for events that are beyond her control,” Trist said.

The university says it is not refunding graduation fees because they “support celebrating the Class of 2020 at this year’s virtual celebration and events that will be held in May 2021, creating and mailing graduates’ diplomas and leather covers, and buying and shipping regalia, among other commencement-related activities,” according to Patricia Murret, director of public affairs at Loyola. 

Many students, although frustrated with the current situation, do not want their four years at Loyola to end on a sour note. 

In regards to parting ways with Loyola, Hall said, “I think the last thing I would say is ‘thank you’ to the school, and I hope they rectify the situation.”