2020 Commencement Changes Reflect the Ongoing Need for Students to Mark Their Achievements

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Loren Negovan & Jaclyn Tracy

Among the many changes Adelphi students have been dealing with is the reality that graduating seniors are not having the commencement experience this week they anticipated when they started their last year on campus. With all in-person gatherings cancelled due to lockdown and social distancing rules, all plans for the usual pomp and circumstance have been delayed. But the university and some departments and students are finding alternative ways to honor their achievements, at least for the short term.


It all began when it became clear that the May 20 commencement ceremony in Nassau County Coliseum would not be allowed because of state mandates. President Christine Riordan made the announcement in a March 20 email. She said, “I am heartbroken to tell you today that we will not be holding our University's traditional undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremony this year, which was planned for May 20, 2020.” She also announced that the Commencement Committee, which includes students, would examine all alternatives and suggestions from the community. 


Her announcement caused a widespread reaction from the Adelphi community. Students were extremely upset about this decision, as were families who had been excited to be able to celebrate their accomplishments in the traditional way that past graduates have been able to.


Soon after this email was sent out, action was taken by students who shared their feelings that cancellation of graduation was unfair after all of their hard work. One such student was Giovanna Stanco, a senior Spanish major. She created a petition on Change.org titled “Reschedule Adelphi University’s Graduation.” The petition, which received more than 2,300 signatures reads: “After four years of hard work, commitment to our education and hopes to walk across the stage hearing our name called, this is extremely disappointing. This ceremony is important to students from all walks of life, from first-generation college graduates to those who worked many hours a week to afford this education, to those who waited for this moment their whole life.”


Students also shared their strong feelings. One student said, “All of the class of 2020 has proven our involvement, dedication and support for years of university programming, fundraising and more. Speaking from the point of view of a first-generation graduate in my family, this is heartbreaking.”


Another comment read, “Although I’m a freshman, many of the people who helped guide me through my first semester were seniors and I believe their hard work over the past four years deserves to be recognized.”


Matthew Bustruc, a senior nursing major, said he was also upset. “This is a situation that is hard to take in after four years of hard work. I knew that Adelphi would do the best for their students to try and resolve the situation when possible as best as they could.”


The administration listened. On April 8, President Riordan announced the committee's decision to postpone the in-person ceremony to a time when it could be done safely. She stated, “We asked our University-wide Commencement Steering Committee, made up of students, faculty and staff, to explore options and alternatives to the large scale gathering we hold each May. After weighing extensive input from our community, the committee unanimously recommended, at a later date to be determined, Adelphi University will host an in-person, University-wide, traditional Commencement for the Class of 2020 as well as a Doctoral Hooding ceremony. The date will be determined once it is safe and allowable by public officials to resume large, in-person gatherings.”


Todd Wilson, strategic communications director, said that while there are no updates at this time of a set time and date for the ceremony, the community should keep watching for updates via email, on the commencement page and other communications. Meanwhile, there will be virtual events on May 20, which Wilson said are not a replacement ceremony or a virtual commencement.


Mary Aldridge, director of board relations and academic ceremonies, said that the Commencement Committee considered a variety of input that reflected student preferences about commencement in this unusual time.


“Everyone in the Adelphi community is looking forward to virtually celebrating the Class of 2020 in May -- and getting together for a traditional university-wide commencement ceremony when that is possible and safe."


Wilson said that on May 20, there will be shared video salutes to the Class of 2020 and a published list of graduates (as would normally be in the commencement program). These will be linked from an email going out that morning and posted on commencement.adelphi.edu. President Riordan will be introducing the video and sharing congratulations to the Class of 2020.


There will also be video profiles of some graduating students released in the next week. You can even find some digital swag at brand.adelphi.edu/design/assets/class-of-2020-celebration/.


Adelphi has been able to deliver on this promise in large part thanks to the students who gave their input on how they wanted to celebrate their graduation, and the staff members of Adelphi who took these views into consideration.


“I am really happy that they decided to postpone commencement, given the circumstances. Although we cannot walk across the stage now, I am looking forward to the day we all safely can,” said Amanda Baptiste, a senior English major.


In the meantime, the university is dedicated to finding ways to celebrate the class of 2020’s graduation while we are still physically distant from each other. Wilson said that the celebration of graduating students began in April and continues with Senior Week, The Lavender and Multicultural graduation on May 6, the Business School awards, and recognition of Political Science students, International Studies and Levermore Global Scholars.


Some departments are thinking outside the box so seniors can have some recognition on their day. For instance, the co-presidents of Lambda Pi Eta, Sofia Fazal and Alyssa Striano, are planning an event online for seniors of the Communications Department. They said, “We wanted to put together a video with people passing a diploma (a rolled up piece of paper with a rubber band around it) dressed up in their caps and gowns or the next best thing, which in my case would be a bathrobe for a whimsical approach to the tradition.”


Wilson added, “I know the Adelphi faculty and staff are truly doing all we can to honor the Class of 2020 in these extraordinary and challenging times.”


While it is certain that celebrations this year are going to be different than ever before, the class of 2020 will continue to look forward to the day they can walk across the stage in person, prouder than ever.


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