2020 graduates react to 2021 ceremony disparities

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Michael Bauer

A graduation tassel lays across a gown decked out in Loyola’s emblem.

Jacqueline Galli

While happy for Loyola’s 2021 graduates and the more traditional graduation they received, this year’s ceremony had some members of the class of 2020 feeling forgotten.

One such 2020 graduate was Andrea Butler, whose post to the class of 2020 Facebook group sparked a conversation about the different ceremonies each class received.

In her post, Butler said, “congrats to the class of 2021 but anyone else really confused why the school gave them a real graduation and not us?”

The class of 2021 was given numerous photo opportunities with props around campus, senior week activities, and diploma ceremonies at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena.

After attending this year’s make-up ceremony for the 2020 class held May 25 in Holy Name of Jesus Church, Butler said the ceremony was “underwhelming.” Butler’s major concern was that, to her knowledge, both classes paid the same fee, yet the university gave each very different ceremonies.

At this point, Butler said it is too late for a proper ceremony, but that the university should provide at least a partial refund for the graduation fee.

According to the university’s website, the fee is over $300 dollars, set to cover the cost of the diploma, regalia, and commencement events. The site also states this fee will be charged regardless of the students’ participation in the commencement ceremony.

Loyola University could not be reached for comment in regards to where the fee money went for the class of 2020 outside of the diploma and regalia. The University was also unable to respond in regards to their reaction to members of the class of 2020’s concerns on ceremony disparities.

This isn’t the first time the class of 2020 has called for the university to refund their graduation fees. Ariel Hall, a 2020 graduate, started a petition last year that currently has upwards of 500 signatures. Nelly Brown shared this petition to her personal Facebook page around the time it was created, and even after Loyola’s recent attempts to host further ceremonies for the class of 2020, Brown still believes a refund is due.

“There is a lot of us, so if all of us paid that money, and we only have that cap and gown and the diploma to show for it,” said Brown, “that’s still a lot of money in pocket that you can return.”

Claire Dulle, another 2020 graduate, felt saddened by the lack of a traditional ceremony for her class as well. When she found out there would be no refund of the graduation fee, Dulle said she decided to attend one of the mini-graduation ceremonies offered by the university in August 2020.

Prior to August, the university sent out an email to her class, giving them an opportunity to sign up for one of the times available to get their diploma from Loyola University President Tania Tetlow. Dulle said the ceremonies were less than 10 minutes in length and only had a handful of graduates at each one to be able to maintain social distancing and COVID safety guidelines.

“It was good for what could be done,” said Dulle.

In regards to the graduation fee, Dulle also said, “I don’t really care that much about it, I knew I was going to have to pay it anyway.”

Lindsey Rhodes, a member of the class of 2020, also attended the August ceremonies and was disappointed to be deprived of a traditional graduation. As a first-generation college graduate, the graduation ceremony had a particularly special meaning for Rhodes. While she was disheartened not to have an opportunity to walk across a big stage, Rhodes said she felt like the disparity in the ceremonies between the class of 2020 and 2021 made sense given the circumstances.

While there seemed to be mixed feelings amongst the class of 2020 regarding the ceremonies they received, all the 2020 graduates that spoke with the Maroon expressed congratulations to the class of 2021 and were glad the recent class was able to receive a more traditional ceremony.