COLUMN: In-person graduation ceremonies this spring provide hope for future in-person operations at MU

Graduating seniors will have in-person commencement this spring with safety precautions in place.

Isabelle Marak is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about campus events, lifestyle and the arts

Mizzou announced last month that graduation ceremonies this spring will be held in-person. The ceremonies will take place over the May 7 and May 14 weekends at varying indoor event locations. The move for in-person graduation is a hopeful end for present and past seniors.

Isabella Paxton, an MU senior, is overjoyed to walk in front of her friends and family for commencement.

“When I read the Columbia Missourian article saying that Mizzou was going to have [an] in-person commencement, I was just very excited,” Paxton said. “I immediately texted all of my family and was like ‘It’s happening!’”

This decision likely occurred due to the increase in COVID-19 vaccinations across the state of Missouri. According to Google, 23.7% of the Missouri population has taken at least the first dose of a vaccine with 12.9% of the state fully vaccinated, as of March 26. The growing vaccine numbers foreshadow a decrease in COVID-19 cases and more in-person events.

Paxton’s parents have also been vaccinated, so she is not as concerned about her family’s well-being during the commencement.

“I am less concerned about my family in particular and more concerned about the community as a whole, and maybe myself a little bit,” she said. “Just because this feels like a really perfect environment to spread COVID.”

The graduation ceremonies will be held indoors, which sparks important conversations about the safety of individuals who have not been vaccinated. MU acknowledges these safety hazards and intends to implement proper safety measures. Including but not limited to: six guest tickets per graduating senior, social distancing and mask-wearing. These safety measures ensure future in-person events and classes can continue to happen.

I had in-person high school graduation at the end of July. The commencement was indoors at an event center, and similar to MU’s protocols, each student could only invite up to four people to attend. Additionally, guests and graduating students had to socially distance at all times, wear masks and get their temperature taken at the front door.

The protocols were unpleasant compared to past graduations, but nonetheless, my graduating class was simply content with being able to walk for graduation. It is better to have safety measures put in place than to not have in-person graduation at all.

The in-person commencement is not just exciting for graduating students, but also a favorable outcome for current and future MU students. Since MU is making strides toward a more normal event, it gives hope that new and future students can be more involved on campus in the coming semesters.

I am currently involved in a couple of extracurriculars on campus, however, all of them operate virtually. For example, The Maneater is currently holding all meetings over Zoom. I initially wanted to join a couple of other clubs this semester, but I thought it would be better to wait for in-person meetings. I would be engaged more on campus if there was the opportunity to meet people face-to-face.

Student involvement is an important factor in success during and after college. According to a study done by the Ohio State University, “highly involved students [are] three times more likely to be considered for a job by employers than the uninvolved students. Also, highly involved students [are] rated as 18% more career-ready than the uninvolved students.”

Participating in extracurriculars not only builds up a resume but also makes the hefty college tuition price more worthwhile. There are more people willing to financially pay for college tuition and live on campus when operations are less virtual.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, “undergraduate enrollment this fall declined by 3.6% from the fall of 2019. That's more than 560,000 students and twice the rate of enrollment decline seen last year.” The decline in enrollment is mostly from first-year students deciding to hold off on college enrollment due to financial and practical reasons. Financial issues are one of the top reasons why high school graduates do not attend university, and with the pandemic, it is a lot more difficult for students to want to pay for virtual learning.

Having in-person graduation paves the way for future in-person events and classes, which is in the university’s and students’ best interests.

“It almost feels like you’re closing the book, and you don’t really get that closure when you don’t walk,” Paxton said.

The Maneater encourages readers to donate to the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI works to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the US, and to protect the basic human rights for the most vulnerable individuals. Donate at: https://support.eji.org/give/153413/#!/donation/checkout

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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