Coronavirus Florida: FSU seniors seeking commitment that they will get to cross the stage
As Florida State University plans an unprecedented “virtual” graduation ceremony next Saturday because of the coronavirus pandemic, a growing number of students – and parents – are urging President John Thrasher to commit to a live ceremony in the future.
The movement is playing out on Facebook pages such as “Florida State Parents Class of 2020," through an online Change.org petition that has generated more than 3,000 names and within a survey sent to FSU student organization leaders.
The survey responses will be tallied and presented to the Office of Student Affairs and other divisions.
Thrasher said he’s aware of the online petition and has heard from some students and parents on the issue. He supports an in-person commencement, but he cannot commit to a firm date with so many uncertainties.
“Basically, I would really want to be able to walk in a graduation,” said Zofia Kolodziej, a Melbourne resident graduating with a degree in risk management and insurance.
“Graduation is very symbolic to me," she said. "I appreciate that FSU is giving us the virtual commencement, but I would really appreciate for us to be able to walk in person.”
Sharing Kolodziej’s sentiment is Zuzanna Szulc, who is graduating with a degree in marketing and who was recently inducted into the Garnet and Gold Scholar Society.
Szulc said the students are receiving support from parents, friends and members of the community.
“We want to hear concretely there will be a commencement, not just a celebration,” she said, referring to FSU saying it would like to bring Class of 2020 graduates back for an on-campus event at some point.
She notes the University of Florida has rescheduled its spring 2020 commencement weekend for the weekend of July 31-Aug. 2 for students graduating with a bachelor’s, master’s or specialist degrees.
The University of South Florida is planning to hold summer commencements Aug. 6-9. The ceremonies will be expanded to allow all spring graduates the opportunity to participate.
The University of West Florida is hosting its graduation Aug. 1 and Florida Polytechnic University is rescheduled for Dec. 18.
The universities announcing later summer graduation dates have not indicated how firm they are because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kolodziej and Szulc said their drive should not be perceived as an affront to FSU, but, instead, a way of demonstrating the passion they have for the university, their experiences as undergraduates and the friendships they’ve made.
“The memories and opportunities I’ve had at Florida State are unsurpassable," said Szulc, executive vice president of the American Marketing Association chapter at FSU and a member of Alpha Kappa Psi, the professional business fraternity.
Thrasher said he has responded to emails and he understands the students’ desire to have a live graduation. He’s also personally disappointed because he has a granddaughter graduating this spring.
FSU graduations attract 8,000 to 9,000 people, he said, with many of them making travel arrangements and booking hotel rooms.
Thrasher said it would be “extremely disappointing” to set a date, have guests make arrangements, and then have it cancelled.
“There are a lot of considerations,” he said. “So, the answer is yes, I definitely want to have a graduation for the Class of 2020, a live one in Tallahassee, and as soon as its possible to do that, we will do it.”
Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byrondobson.
This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.