On March 24, McMaster announced that this year’s spring convocation ceremonies, previously scheduled from May 19 to June 12, will be postponed. Instead, virtual celebrations will be planned to comply with the need for physical distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The press release assured students that an in-person ceremony will be held at a later date, but did not specify what this ceremony would entail.
This is one of many measures being put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. On March 17, the provincial government declared a state of emergency in Ontario, and banned all gatherings of more than 50 people. Stronger action has been taken since then, with the Ontario government prohibiting gatherings of more than five people as of March 28.
Online convocation celebrations are currently being planned, but it is not yet clear how these will proceed. It has also not been confirmed how students will receive their parchment degrees.
“We recognize that Convocation is an important and special event for graduands, our award recipients and their families, and we are actively developing plans for both the online and in-person celebrations,” stated the release on Mac DailyNews.
It was also confirmed that the timing of graduation and degree conferral will not be changed, and that those eligible to graduate will do so on time.
Adrianna Michell, who was slated to be the Valedictorian for the Humanities class of 2020 and is also the Features reporter at the Silhouette, believes that the university made the right call by cancelling the in-person ceremony. However, she still found the news disappointing.
“There’s a global pandemic and objectively convocation doesn’t matter at an equal proportion, but it’s still something that I cared about and other students cared about, especially first generation students and their families, and marginalized students and their families. It is an important thing when you’ve faced systemic barriers preventing you from university or that make it harder to complete a university degree,” she said.
Aleigha Kampman, who will be graduating this year with a combined honours in political science and health studies, was looking forward to convocation as a form of closure.
“Convocation for me was the chance to say goodbye to friends that I didn’t realize I would be seeing for the last time, and professors I never got to thank or who I had become close to over my four years,” she said.
According to both Kampman and Michell, the only communication that graduands have received from the university are the posts on Mac DailyNews.
McMaster is not the only university to cancel or delay convocation due to COVID-19. On March 25, the university of Toronto announced via a series of tweets that convocation ceremonies would be cancelled outright, without being postponed to a later date. Furthermore, York University, the University of Regina and McGill University are some of the other universities to announce plans to postpone or cancel spring convocation ceremonies.
“I think we have to make hard decisions, and one is that we have to miss out on things that we were looking forward to. Life can’t continue business as usual, it’s still okay to feel upset about it or feel like you’re missing out on an important part of your university experience, but it is the right decision,” said Michell.