Unwilling to accept that their graduation will take place virtually, students at the University of Tampa (UT) have decided to prepare a graduation of their own.
After voicing their disappointment when the school announced that it will hold a virtual commencement ceremony in May, a group of UT students started a GoFundMe page to help them secure a reservation at an undisclosed location to continue with their alternate graduation. All donations received will be used to pay for the venue and other costs.
The students also launched a petition to persuade the university to reverse its decision and allow them to personally receive their diplomas, having already gathered more than 3,500 signatures.
“While safety and health is important, it is the decision of the individual to walk across a stage and receive their diploma. The university requires us to be in-person when scheduled for courses and cannot operate virtually, unless we receive accommodations, yet we can’t have an in-person graduation,” the petition read.
In an email to students, university President Ronald Vaughn explained that the decision to hold a virtual graduation was reached after receiving “advice from public health officials and rules governing large gatherings.”
However, students pointed out that vaccinations are being rolled out and that the city of Tampa has safely hosted major events such as the Super Bowl and a victory boat parade with around 25,000 people.
Eric Cardenas, a spokesperson for UT, said the school is aware of the petition and the plans to create an alternate graduation ceremony.
“This event is not supported nor sponsored by The University of Tampa. Therefore, we are unable to ensure that this independent event follows the Spartan Shield Health Safety Plan or CDC regulations. Nor can we ensure the event will accurately represent or reflect the mission of the University,” said Cardenas.
St. John’s University, the University of Nevada Reno, the University of Maine, and the University of Michigan have seen similar petitions surface. However, Polk State College and several Iowa public universities will have in-person ceremonies.