Students petition 2021 commencement plans


Shadera Moore

Loyola students have rallied their social networks and taken to the internet to challenge the university’s 2021 commencement plans, which were first released March 29.

Loyola’s commencement will consisting of multiple in-person masses, a university-wide video ceremony that will be broadcast outdoors, and a drive-through diploma ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students.

Within 48 hours of the initial announcement, students had begun to circulate a petition that has now drawn more than 700 signatures, calling for the university to replace the drive-through diploma ceremony with a large in-person one.

“All that students of the class of 2021 are asking for is that Loyola changes their planned graduation procedures to ones that are conducted in-person and socially distanced,” petition organizers wrote.

In an email to seniors Wednesday night, the university said its plans for commencement are based on city and state guidelines for the length and size of graduation events.

“Some of you are asking why we can’t have one large ceremony outdoors, or several small ceremonies,” the email read. “These are the constraints we face: a commencement speaker won’t speak at multiple disaggregated ceremonies. And if we were to have one big event, we would be limited in our ability to have any guests. Further, the regulations limit ceremonies to 90 minutes (only enough time to give out diplomas in a single event, not to have a speaker.) ”

Petition organizers raised questions about the accessibility of the diploma parade for graduates who do not own vehicles, in addition to the bigger question of why the university chose not to host one large or several small commencement ceremonies exclusively outdoors.

The university has said any students who do not have a car can reach out to LUPD for a ride in the drive-through diploma ceremony.

Biology senior Gera Fernandez, who set the petition in motion, said he will be his father’s first child to graduate from college and that his father was looking forward to watching his son walk the stage.

“We wanted to have a graduation that would be meaningful to not only us and our friends, but also our families,” Fernandez said, adding “I feel like the drive-through graduating removes just a little bit of that.”

Graduating seniors have through April 30 to register for 2021 commencement events, which Loyola has yet to budge.