Some students are fighting back about having virtual-only graduations.
Five hundred petitions have been circulated nationwide - including at northwest Ohio’s Tiffin University - by students and parents alike who believe their dreams have been dashed by the lack of personally picking up a diploma.
According to Change.org, the Tiffin University petition was created on April 23 by an anonymous student, and over two weeks it received 743 signatures. While the university went ahead and held a virtual commencement on May 2, the petition sought to have the university schedule it for a later date - when regulations related to the coronavirus are lifted.
Tiffin University spokesman Lisa Williams said the petition - one of 21 at colleges and high schools across Ohio - began before the university had further communicated its intent for hosting a virtual commencement. Ms. Williams added that university officials responded to emails from families, stating a traditional ceremony at the time was not feasible.
“COVID-19 had impacted commencement ceremonies around the globe and there was nothing we could do to change that. Because of social distancing guidelines and restrictions set in place, a traditional TU graduation ceremony was just not allowable at this time. Please know that recreating a virtual graduation was not an easy task and we were aware that some students were expressing complaints on social media,” she said
In a written statement posted as the petition’s summary, the anonymous petition creator at Tiffin spoke of all the memories students would miss if a virtual ceremony was held.
“For the seniors in the Class of 2020, we may have lost some of the best days of our senior year due to this pandemic, but we were still looking for a commencement ceremony to celebrate everything we have achieved. Tiffin University’s Class of 2020 deserves to walk across the Heminger stage and not in a virtual environment,” the student wrote.
Ms. Williams said officials made the final call to have a virtual commencement to ensure that students were celebrated in a timely manner.
“We wanted to celebrate our students as soon as possible, upon their completion, because they had earned it and we wanted to honor them. Our intentions were good under all circumstances. It was the “one thing” we could do,” she said.
Amanda Mustafic, Change.org’s communication campaigner in Washington, said she believed the petitions were a way for students to ignite local change in response to all the public decisions amid virtual graduations.
“And I believe the petitions were spurred on at first by multiple, public cancellations and the airing of the very first ‘Zoom’ graduations - and there were a number of successes around the last university and school trend for pass-fail grading, which I believe whet starters’ teeth on activism and showed digital organizing could result in local change,” she said.