Winter Commencements Abruptly Canceled due to COVID-19
By Hannah Zozobrado
December 22, 2021
Image Credit: Courtesy of Zachary Olson for Unsplash
“With a heavy heart, we are canceling all winter commencement activities…”
This was a single line in the Dec. 16, 2021 email from the University of Maryland that single-handedly shattered some graduating seniors’ hopes of getting closure from their days at the university.
The message abruptly came four days before what would have been the main winter commencement ceremony for UMD seniors moving on to a new chapter in their lives. Its cancellation was the result of a spike in positive COVID-19 cases on campus.
Computer science graduate Anyesha Majumdar first found out about the cancellation of the commencement through a friend, who texted her and asked if she read the email. Upon reading the email, Majumdar immediately sent a screenshot of the news to her parents.
Even before its cancellation, Majumdar had a final exam that overlapped with the main commencement and wouldn’t have been able to attend it, anyway. Despite this, she was still disappointed.
“I really was looking forward to feeling like I’d actually graduated,” Majumdar said. “After my last final exam, I just packed up my apartment and left. It felt like any other semester. I still feel like I haven’t graduated or that anything’s changed. It just feels fake.”
While disappointed, Majumdar wasn’t surprised with its cancellation since other schools had also been canceling their events due to COVID-19. She also believed that, given the circumstances, it was likely the right decision to cancel the winter commencement.
“I think that it probably was the right thing to do to cancel commencement as it was, but I don’t like that they didn’t offer anything [besides] an invitation to walk six months from now in spring,” Majumdar said.
Like Majumdar, public health science graduate Josh Namata found out about the news of the cancellation through someone else via text.
“I honestly felt blindsided by the decision. I wish they had expressed concerns before then so I could temper my expectations,” Namata said. “But when their email came out with graduation days away, it felt like the floor was ripped out from under me.”
Namata had been looking forward to celebrating his graduation with loved ones and wished that the university had “planned better, for example a back-up online ceremony and preliminary cautions about possible cancellations.”
“We all were looking forward to the ceremony and my friends and family were going to print out huge faces of my head. And my friends were all excited to take pictures together after the ceremony.” Namata said. “I was so excited to celebrate with them.”
Rather than an in-person celebration, the School of Public Health held an online ceremony. And instead of an in-person celebration, Namata’s friends made a video congratulating him.
Majumdar and Namata are two of the many seniors who feel disheartened by the way their graduation progressed. However, both recent graduates have their own things to look forward to:
Now that Namata has graduated, he plans to work for the government. He is currently applying to the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture.
For Majumdar, she will be moving to L.A. to work at Capital One as a software engineer. Even so, Majumdar is considering coming back in May to walk with the spring-graduate seniors.