Seniors’ petition for postponed graduation

Members of class of 2020 ask for a postponed, in-person ceremony after SPU cancels all graduation festivities

Kyle Morrison, Staff Reporter

A graduation ceremony in an indoor stadium
Photo courtesy of Seattle Pacific University Office of University Communications
The 2019 SPU commencement ceremony. The class of 2020 is petitioning for an in-person ceremony at a later date.

With in-person commencement ceremonies likely impossible for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, countless high school and college institutions have either scheduled virtual graduations or canceled the ceremony altogether. Seattle Pacific University has decided to hold a virtual graduation ceremony for all 2020 undergraduate students Sunday, June 14, at 4 p.m.

Senior gymnast Darian Burns has created an online petition along with fellow senior classmates Andrea Diaz and Zahra Lawal, asking for the SPU administration to reconsider the cancellation of this year’s in-person graduation ceremonies. The petition, which can be found on, has been signed by 1,207 students as of April 18.

Many SPU seniors are dissatisfied with the idea of virtual ceremonies, and are asking administration to reconsider canceling in-person ceremonies in the hope of having a traditional celebration at a time when public health officials deem it safe to do so.

“It [graduation] is the one weekend/day where your entire four years of not sleeping, incredibly difficult exams, unnecessarily tough professors, summers spent away from family and friends at unpaid internships for some form of class credit, is essentially recognized,” the petition claims.

“While many of us do not expect an in-person graduation or any kind of in-person gathering for a while in light of Coronavirus pandemic, we are strongly suggesting that the Office of the President and the Commencement team and other necessary faculty members attempt to figure something out in terms of postponing an in-person ceremony.”

One of the suggestions highlighted in the petition is to possibly allow the class of 2020 to walk in the 2021 commencement ceremony next spring.

The petition has been largely successful and has led to an open discussion between the class of 2020 and the commencement team.

“I want to show [the] administration how resilient the 2020 class is and how we are willing to come back for ourselves and one another in celebration and grand congratulations,” Burns said.

“I would like to see a celebration that is similar to traditional commencement during which families and friends can gather to celebrate graduates,” fellow collaborator Diaz said.

Diaz believes that an in-person ceremony can still occur as soon as September, but would also be willing to wait until next spring.

A man wearing academic regalia hands a diploma to a graduate
Photo courtesy of Seattle Pacific University Office of University Communications
SPU President Dan Martin hands a diploma to a graduate at the 2019 SPU commencement ceremony. Due to COVID-19, the spring 2020 commencement was cancelled.

Despite the wealth of support this petition has received from SPU seniors, as well as many other members of the student body, there are some who do not believe an in-person ceremony is either feasible or ethical.

Senior Anna White aired her disagreement with the petition on Burn’s Facebook post of the petition, pointing out that the coronavirus pandemic is, “not fake news” and stating that the virtual graduation ceremony is, “our best solution.”

White believes that postponing graduation into a seemingly distant future would cause many more problems than signers of the petition believe.

“To have graduates and their families wait that long for the ceremony and its closure would have been unfair for all parties involved,” White said.

In the end, SPU and the class of 2020 is faced with no perfect solutions. With everyday life uprooted and humanity living in a state of social isolation, jurisdictions in many countries are only allowing “essential” activities to continue. For many graduating seniors this seems unfair.

“College is difficult and expensive, and for many, especially first generation college students like myself, it is huge to graduate!” Diaz said. “A celebration is something we deserve.”