The university will have one in-person graduation ceremony for fall graduates Sunday at 1 p.m. at Apogee Stadium and deans will host virtual college recognition ceremonies on Dec. 11 and 12.
Although the university originally planned to have two commencement ceremonies Sunday, with one at 10 a.m. and one at 1 p.m. to follow the stadium’s capacity requirements, they combined the ceremonies based on the number of tickets claimed.
The commencement will include ceremonial conferral of degrees by the president, remarks from the administration and turning of graduates’ tassels and rings.
“I appreciate that they are at least giving us some sort of in-person ceremony,” social work senior Rachel Aly said. “That helps it feel a little more real. [But] they aren’t even announcing our names so it doesn’t feel like an individual accomplishment.”
President Neal Smatresk initially announced the commencement plans in a university-wide notice Oct. 13.
“This semester doesn’t look as any of us expected, but you continue to thrive and march toward graduation,” Smatresk said in the notice. “While we cannot offer traditional ceremonies this fall, hosting socially distanced commencement ceremonies with limited attendance is one way we can honor your achievements while keeping the safety of our UNT community the highest priority.”
Students who wish to participate in the in-person ceremonies had to submit their RSVP and request their two guest tickets by Nov. 9. Seating will be pre-assigned to maintain social distancing requirements.
“We are expected to be excited to attend a ceremony with only two guests allowed where we will not be individually recognized, nor will we be walking across the stage,” English senior Sierra Hardtke said. “Instead, we will be listening to speeches, turning our tassels and leaving. Then, we will be recognized through Zoom, which grants no satisfaction at all.”
Math senior Lyn Brown said she wishes the university could have used feedback from the spring commencement ceremonies to improve their current plans. The spring ceremonies included a virtual ceremony in which all graduates’ names were read aloud for a live viewing.
“They could have improved it by renting a large enough venue for a week or weekend to ensure the entire graduating class of 2020 — spring, summer and fall — had their chance to walk the stage or have their name correctly announced with a nice stand and wave,” Brown said.
TJ Campbell, who graduated in the spring with a major in engineering, said he was overall disappointed with his graduation.
“I know that my class didn’t get the proper send-off we deserved,” Campbell said. “At the time, my friend group and even family fully understood that a graduation ultimately would have been dangerous with this pandemic. [But] that went out the window when football season started. UNT showed they cared more about a mediocre football program than a full graduating class.”
Campbell also said he understands how challenging this semester was for fall graduates.
“I know that Zoom classes were more challenging than in-person classes,” Campbell said. “I’m really happy for the graduating class for the fall. I just hope the necessary precautions will be taken and that everyone will follow them.”
Hardtke said she originally planned on graduating in 2021 but regrets graduating early due to the university’s graduation plans.
“I feel cheated in all honesty,” English senior Sierra Hardtke said. “Not only is graduation going to be held before finals, which gives graduates a false sense of ‘we did it, it’s over,’ directly before the most challenging part of the semester, but [the university] also took the easy way out and provided fall 2020 graduates with the bare minimum.”
Graduates will be expected to wear regalia and all guests must wear face masks.
Aly said she thinks the class of 2020 deserves more considering the cost of attending the university.
“I understand the need to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Aly said. “But if you can allow athletes to practice and play games, then you can allow us to walk across the stage. Being a first-generation college student, this is what I looked forward to the most, having my family be there in the stands enjoying it with me. But I won’t get to have that moment I’ve been waiting for for four years.”
Featured Image: An in-person ceremony will be held this Sunday at 1 p.m. for fall graduates. Deans will be hosting virtual ceremonies in December. Image by Meredith Holser