What was particularly frustrating for the senior graduate was learning that the University of Florida – which finishes a class five times the size of the private college in Tampa – was planning an in-person ceremony. The same is true for the University of South Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami, all much larger than Tampa, which has fewer than 9,000 undergraduates.
In an emailed statement, university spokesperson Eric Cardenas reiterated what college leaders told the student body two months ago when they announced plans for a virtual-only event. : “Put simply, given the lingering uncertainty of Covid-19, public guidance responsible for health and the rules governing large gatherings, the university could not realistically organize a safe academic celebration – but significant. “
Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, said universities – along with disgruntled parents and graduates complaining about virtual beginnings – were ignoring a common sense solution.
“The answer is very simple,” he said. “By July or August, we should have a dramatic drop in transmission, because the amount of vaccine coverage would then be dramatically increased,” he said. “Just postpone graduation until the end of the summer.”
He added that universities – especially those that are close to each other, or that are part of a consortium like the Big Ten Sports Conference – should have a consistent approach, as lack of coordination is confusing. “The best thing to do is not to ask one school to do one thing and another to do another,” he said.
But this coordination does not happen, and as each institution makes its own decision, the result is an uneven landscape.
Sometimes campuses within walking distance take drastically different approaches. In Massachusetts, Harvard University has announced that its elders will virtually graduate and have their degrees mailed to them, while just two miles away, Boston University will host a graduation ceremony in nobody.