The university announced its decision to postpone this year’s commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 in an email by Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, on March 27.
His address praised the senior class for its historical designation as both Fordham’s dodransbicentennial class, the class to arrive on campus when the university was celebrating the 175th anniversary of its founding, and as the 2020 visionary class.
“While every class holds a special place in the history of any university, you all know that I have long believed that you hold an especially important place in Fordham’s history,” wrote McShane in an email sent to the senior class.
He said he would reach out to share a new date as soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces that it will be safe to gather in the kind of crowd a Fordham graduation usually draws.
Last year the university’s commencement drew nearly 15,000 members of the Fordham community to Edwards Parade and conferred degrees to recipients of its 10 undergraduate and graduate schools.
According to McShane, the university is planning a small live-stream ceremony for May 16, the original commencement date, and will also live-stream a Baccalaureate Mass on May 15.
These announcements came almost two weeks earlier than the administration originally said they would relay the information. According to Bob Howe, senior director of communications for the university, the university wanted to relay information as quickly as possible in order to accommodate families canceling travel reservations and other plans.
“The CDC and the New York State Department of Health have predicted that the number of infections in the metropolitan area will only peak at the end of April, after which there will continue to be new cases, so the state, and Fordham, will need to remain in a guarded position,” said Howe. “It’s estimated that the crisis will not crest in other parts of the country until after it peaks in New York. This has obvious and serious implications for the families of students from other parts of the country.”
It is not likely that the university will be able to include all of the events normally associated with Senior Week in the year’s round of pre-commencement celebrations, according to McShane.
The potential loss of these events has garnered an outpouring of resistance from the senior class who has since started a petition imploring the university to also postpone, rather than cancel, events such as Senior Ball and the Parent Appreciation Dinner Dance (PADD).
Chloe Knupp, FCRH ’20, and Maeve Burke, FCRH ’20, cochairs of social media for the Senior Week Committee, posted a university-approved statement on Facebook and Instagram, announcing the committee’s commitment to providing full refunds for anyone who has already purchased Senior Week tickets.
“We are going to still be active on those social media pages in order to provide interactive content as well as resources for seniors as best we can,” said Knupp. “We also plan on relaying any new information there as soon as we receive it. We want to keep the community aspect of the class of 2020 and have so much love for everyone.”
The announcement from Fordham comes amid a slew of postponements and cancellations across the globe.
At the epicenter of the virus, New York State is slated to remain on pause until at least April 29. The state is now recording over 10,000 deaths, some of whom are members of the Fordham community.
The situation has prompted other colleges in New York City, including Columbia University, New York University and all SUNYs and CUNYs to call for postponements. Other colleges such as DePaul University in Chicago have canceled their ceremonies with no foreseeable postponement plans.
Natalie Migliore, FCRH ’20, said that though the mass loss of lives and the effects of the coronavirus are devastating, she finds it difficult to comprehend the loss of the remainder of her senior year, especially the senior events.
“It’s sad that we have to wait to celebrate but what I’m really disappointed about is what we lost in the process of this. I don’t just mean graduation. What about Senior Ball, Always-a-Ram BBQ, and (the) Parent Appreciation Dinner?” asked Migliore. “Fordham hasn’t promised to reschedule Senior Week and I wish they would make that commitment. I have dreamed about Senior Ball since my freshman year when I first saw all the seniors dressed up on Keating steps, and it doesn’t seem like the class of 2020 is going to get that chance and I’m sad for us.”
The postponement of graduation, and the chilling, long term effects expected to be felt from the coronavirus, have propelled many seniors across the country to recalibrate their post-graduate plans abruptly in anticipation of a looming recession and an otherwise unsavory job market awaiting them.
Chris Spina, GSB ’20, has been quarantined alone in the Bronx for 27 days. He said his life in isolation has brought him a newfound sense of time, causing him to contemplate getting his master’s degree much sooner than he had originally planned.
“My senior year just got taken away from me and the moment that hit me, I knew I needed to change my perspective, not only on how I view our society, but how I look at the general world,” said Spina. “With my life flipped upside down and my upcoming job taken away for me, I was left to take matters into my own hands which is why I’m now seriously considering grad school.”
While many students have expressed concerns over the potential loss of Senior Week, some students are concerned they and their families will not be able to attend a rescheduled date. Others plan on abstaining from the festivities altogether.
Justin Handsman, GSB ’20, has had a job lined up at the Pentagon Federal Credit Union since last year, citing it as a partial reason to miss the ceremony.
“I wasn’t planning to go to normal graduation either (and) I’m indifferent about a postponement because I wouldn’t have gone anyway,” Handsman said. “The reason for this is that graduation itself is boring and a waste of time. I have a job to go to after graduation and need to start the next stage of my life. The quicker I can never step foot on Fordham again, the better.”
Meanwhile, some spring season athletes who have been awarded eligibility to practice their sport for another season are contemplating enrolling in graduate programs or picking up a fifth year of college to exhaust their eligibility.
Nicholas Raefski, FCRH ’20, is currently weighing options to continue his track career.
“So I’m planning on graduating this semester from Fordham, then grad school next year where I will exhaust eligibility,” said Raefski. “Right now I’m just personally exploring where I will finish up my college running career.”
According to a university-wide email, the Commencement Office is slated to begin sharing information with the senior class regarding the videocast of the Baccalaureate Mass and commencement in the coming weeks.
In closing his email, McShane maintained his commitment to a hopeful image amid a time of vast uncertainty.
“I promise you that when we gather to toast you in-person on Edwards Parade, we will do so under the banner of your class: the Dodransbicentennial banner, the same banner that hung on the facade of Keating Hall when you began your Fordham journeys and the same banner that will welcome you home for your reunions,” he wrote.
“Long Live the Dodransbicentennial Class. Long Live the Visionary Class. Long Live the Class of 2020.”