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by Shelby Willis

On January 28, 2021, the administration sent out emails to prospective Louisiana State University Shreveport spring graduates and informed them that the 2021 Spring Commencement Ceremony would be held virtually. Future graduates have shown that they are not happy about this news. However, this is not the first time the administration has received backlash from students and members of the community.

The 2020 Winter Commencement Ceremony was held via Facebook Live. It had an audience of over 2,000 viewers, but the comments flowing in were very controversial. Of course, family and friends of graduates were congratulating and celebrating their loved ones, but there were also comments directed towards LSUS faculty and staff and other organizations, specifically the Student Government Association (SGA), for not putting forth enough effort to hold a live ceremony. 

After receiving the news about the 2021 Spring Commencement Ceremony, the SGA decided to spearhead the mission to fight for an in-person graduation on behalf of the student body. Their first step was speaking with Chancellor Clark, which happened via Zoom on Feb. 15. Clark expressed his concern for online graduates being able to attend a live ceremony. He stated that the main concern was to limit exposure of graduates and the audience to the coronavirus. He also said that LSUS was trying to find ways to make the virtual ceremony more engaging. However, he promised to keep his mind open and follow up with the members of SGA.

The next step SGA took was creating a survey to gauge student opinion on whether they preferred a live ceremony and how the campus could work together to make it a safe event for everyone involved. Students spoke their truth, and 99% of them voted for a live ceremony. Here are some of their responses explaining why:

“Other colleges in the area (Centenary, LSUBR, LA Tech) are holding graduation ceremonies in the Spring, and I think that with the help and willingness of faculty and staff, we can work together to have a safe and successful graduation ceremony. We deserve it.”

“The university is holding in person classes AND sporting events. There is absolutely NO reason the university should skip an in person graduation.”

“Graduating college is a huge achievement and deserves to be celebrated. If we can have classes, organization meetings, etc. in person, we should be able to give our graduating seniors an in person commencement ceremony. Masks and social distancing can be enforced to ensure safety.”

“It just seems like the administration doesn't care what the students really want. I just want some effort put forth by the administration to make this happen.”

After collecting this data, SGA Secretary Courtney Jackson and Senator Shelby Willis created a presentation that they would later present to Chancellor Clark. The presentation included the following: information about how surrounding schools were creating a safe, live ceremony to commemorate their graduates; multiple options to look into for venues that would provide plenty of seating and CDC-recommended spacing; and contact information for the Divisions Manager of the Independence Stadium and other third-party companies and services needed to put a live ceremony together. The officers and members of SGA met with and presented this information to Chancellor Clark on March 1. 

Despite tireless efforts from the members of SGA, Clark has decided to continue his search for advice on how to better the virtual commencement. The members of SGA proved to be so passionate in standing up and speaking out for the students, and they will continue to be. Further details on the 2021 Spring Commencement Ceremony are still yet to be announced, so if you are graduating, be sure to check your student email frequently, and others can stay updated on the LSUS website.