WIU students react to in-person graduation commencement cancellation

By DYLAN SMITH, Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) —  The decision to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies at Western Illinois University was made less than two weeks ago, after WIU cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason. 

Many students believe hard work, dedication and commitment are not being recognized this school year. 

“We want to celebrate our accomplishments and our hard work, but at the same time I guess you want to put safety first,” said WIU senior Jamie Thompson. 

Many students also were not surprised by the decision. 

 “I wasn’t really that surprised about it and I kind of accepted it because my parents are not going to be able to come here anyway,” said Irina Widmer, a WIU senior and international student from Switzerland. “They want to come, but they’re not going to be able to come because of [foreign] borders closing down.”

WIU students of all classes sympathize for the seniors and graduate students who will not get to walk the stage, especially freshmen who had their high-school graduation taken away. 

“With the way that campus is doing right now, cases are down significantly,” said WIU freshman Madeline Weiss. “I looked at the dashboard this morning (March 16) and there are no cases on campus, and I think that the school could definitely do something with that. We have the giant football field, and we could have the chairs set up safely, and the families could be set up safely so that the seniors could get what they deserve, which is a graduation.” 

“All the hard work that you’ve done here, you can’t really walk across the stage for it to show that you did that hard work,” said WIU sophomore Antwon Thomas. “I just feel like that’s a slap in the face.”

Strong student opinions have also come in the form of a petition that has generated more 1,000 signatures. The petition was created by WIU senior Taylor Gean, who feels that not only the students are owed a proper graduation, but the parents, too. 

“Our families work hard because they want to give us opportunities that they didn’t have themselves.,” Gean said. “I think it’s more than just having a ceremony, it means a lot more to many people than just walking across a stage.”  

In place of traditional graduation ceremonies is the unique option for graduates to participate in an individually staged commencement setting to receive their diploma cover. University photographers will take each graduate’s photo which will be included in the May 15 online commencement. 

In addition to the individual stage crossing, graduates will be recognized in an online ceremony featuring remarks by WIU President Guiyou Huang, Provost Martin Abraham and other university leaders. The online Spring 2021 Commencement Ceremony will air at 10 a.m. May 15 on WIU’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.