The year is 2023. The last state-wide mask mandate was lifted over a year ago, and almost everything has returned to normal – except for the graduation ceremony at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The state university’s commencement ceremony, scheduled to take place in two weeks, will be streamed on YouTube without an in-person audience.
Students hoping to walk across the stage will be relegated to 15-minute time slot reservations during which they and a limited number of guests may stop by the university’s outdoor set-up to take a few pictures and receive a diploma cover.
“It is very impersonal and a waste of time and money for families traveling to celebrate their students from far away,” wrote Angelina Aguilar, who organized a petition calling on UCSC to return to a traditional ceremony format.
The petition has received more than 1,000 signatures, with many students and their parents expressing disappointment and frustration.
“It is absurd that the school has decided without student input to continue with ‘Slug Crossing’ [the university’s name for the event] when other in-person events are still occurring without COVID-19 regulations,” student Joseph Lowe said. “Other universities are going back to traditional commencement procedures, and COVID-19 regulations have been dropped,” he continued.
A review of commencement plans at other universities within the UC system indicates that Santa Cruz is the only campus taking this approach.
Two students who received their community college associate’s degrees in similar “drive-thru” ceremonies during the peak of the pandemic shared that they had been looking forward to a true graduation ceremony upon completing their bachelor’s degrees at UCSC, only for the university to end up dashing those hopes for no good reason.
To make matters worse, UCSC is segregating the outdoor event, scheduling an entirely separate day for “Latinx” [hispanic] students to place their 15-minute reservations – not much of a surprise, given the findings of a recent Young America’s Foundation survey that reports on the concerning prominence of segregated ceremonies.
UCSC’s media relations department did not immediately respond to the New Guard’s request for comment inquiring about the reasoning behind the university’s decision to maintain a COVID-era format. This article will be updated accordingly.