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HBCU Graduations

HBCUs still deciding when 2020 seniors will graduate

Several schools, like Morgan State and Florida A&M, will hold virtual events

Historically black colleges and universities are still deciding how the Class of 2020 will celebrate graduation, and the schools’ presidents are at the forefront of those decisions.

While dealing with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have had to pivot from arranging multiple virtual meetings with their cabinets to making quick decisions that have far-reaching consequences while listening to rapidly changing information.

Elizabeth City State University chancellor Karrie Gibson Dixon surveyed graduating seniors on how they would like to celebrate the event. The options included a virtual graduation, not holding a ceremony or moving it to August or December at the university’s winter commencement. Nearly 90% of the students chose to have the ceremony in August. A date for commencement has not been finalized.

Dixon said seniors will still receive their degrees in May, and explained why she wanted the seniors’ input with the decision.

“No one anticipated this unforeseen situation that we’re in,” Dixon said. “Everyone is going through a roller coaster of emotions around what life looks like in this new norm. So, to have our students be able to provide feedback was something that we were very committed to, and we were glad. Looking at the results of how many actually responded to the survey really showed us and confirmed that we were doing the right thing by asking them for their thoughts.”

Morgan State University plans to hold a virtual recognition ceremony honoring its spring 2020 graduates on the morning of May 16, the day students would have graduated. And during the fall 2020 semester, a traditional ceremony for the spring graduates will take place.

“This is all pending that things are back to normal, and the health crisis has subsided,” said Larry Jones, the assistant vice president at Morgan State. “No date has been set as of yet for this makeup commencement date.”

Florida A&M University is also planning for a virtual graduation ceremony. Plans on how to conduct the event are still being discussed. The university is also considering a traditional ceremony at a later date, when it is safe to assemble in groups again. Delaware State University will have a virtual commencement celebration on May 15. Details on how the event will materialize are still being discussed.

Bowie State, Maryland Eastern Shore, Coppin State and other universities are still brainstorming how they want to move forward with celebrating their Class of 2020 graduates. Team leaders are being cautious with this decision because they understand the significance of this important milestone and want to ensure that students’ hard work is properly recognized.

North Carolina Central chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye invited the university’s 2020 graduating seniors to participate in its December 2020 or May 2021 commencement ceremonies. North Carolina A&T State University plans to reschedule spring graduation for a later date this summer. Clark Atlanta University has yet to confirm a date or venue for its rescheduled ceremony. Graduating seniors will be notified once a decision is made.

At Howard University, president Wayne A.I. Frederick told graduating seniors that an alternative graduation event will occur since the May ceremony was canceled, but details are not yet finalized.

Kevin is a 2019 Rhoden Fellow and a junior mass communications and print journalism major from Baltimore. He's a reporter for The Spectrum student newspaper and is a big fan of the Washington Wizards.