UNCW ‘reviewing plans’ for commencement as students call for in-person gradution

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UNCW seniors hope for in-person graduation (photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A petition calling for in-person graduation at UNCW has garnered lots of support, with close to 700 signatures on Thursday.

“I have been hoping literally all year for an in-person graduation,” Senior Mackenzie Fenn said.

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Seniors on campus seem to be overwhelmingly in support of the in-person ceremony, many saying they would be happy to make any changes or adjustments necessary to make it happen.

“Everyone is willing to do what needs to be done to get an in-person graduation,” Matthew Stott said.

“Even if it involves social distancing, masks, even if it’s broken down by departments I would still love, love an in-person graduation,” Heather Cunningham said.

“I don’t understand why it has to be online there could be alternate ways to do graduation in-person,” Christie Yoash said.

After a year full of zoom classes and missing out on senior class traditions, they’re hopeful that as restrictions are lifted and trends improve, they can close out the year by tossing their caps on campus instead of tuning in virtually.

“I’m in class almost like every day, it’s very safe. I feel like we could make it very safe,” Taylor Purdie.

Though not a popular opinion, one student says as the pandemic lingers, virtual graduation may be best.

“We’ve been through a lot, you know, going through two hurricanes and a pandemic throughout our college career ultimately a virtual graduation is just for the best,” Daniel Williams said.

Although, the students who are hoping for an in-person ceremony say they’re willing to take any precautions or safety measures to walk across the stage in May.

“Whether it’s social distancing, wearing the masks, having limited capacity, limited family members allowed, whatever it is,” Stott said.

After being displaced through hurricanes and now adapting through a pandemic, they say walking across the stage would make the struggles worth it.

“I feel like if we had graduation then I would be content with my college experience,” Yoash said.

“I would love to be able to have that moment where you get to be able to walk and really signify all the work that you’ve done in college because it’s really hard,” Abby Winstead said.

Some pleading directly to Chancellor Sartarelli —

“Please make it in person,” Cunningham said. “Yeah…that’s it.”

In response to the petition, UNCW shared the following statement:

“Based on Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 195 relaxing some COVID-19 restrictions, UNCW is reviewing its plans for May commencement. Feedback from the Class of 2021 will be part of that review, and we will announce any changes as those decisions are made.