2019 Cal State LA commencement

Graduates of Cal State Los Angeles's Arts and Letter Department wave to their family, friends, and supporters during the 2019 Cal State LA Commencement.

El Sereno -- What was meant to be one of the most educationally fulfilling semesters of their college careers has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for graduating seniors.

Not only have classes have been disrupted and events cancelled during their final semester, now the seniors' commencement ceremonies have been been put on hold indefinitely.  

President William A. Covino announced last week in a campus-wide email that commencement would no longer be held in May due to the threat COVID-19 poses.

Graduating seniors are not taking the news well.

“First-generation college students are wanting to show our parents that all their sacrifices have been for this, for graduating college and furthering our studies,” said Jorge Luis Ortiz, a sixth-year liberal studies major.

Ortiz, a first-generation college student himself, was saddened over the news as his worst fears came true. Graduating from high school was already a “big deal” to his parents since they did not graduate high school. Walking the stage this spring would have been even grander.

The Commencement Committee, which was unavailable for an interview, acknowledges that the announcement regarding commencement has caused “disappointment, inconvenience, and further disruption.”

There were “7,253 students eligible to participate in Commencement,” as of Monday, said Robert Lopez, Cal State LA’s executive director of communications. The ceremonies were to take place May 18-22.

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Although Ortiz understands this measure was taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said that he’d prefer for commencement to be postponed for winter. He hopes the university isn’t opting for a virtual commencement like other universities have done: “I don’t know how they would do that, it would be just reading your name off and then getting like five seconds of applause.”

Associated Students Incorporated President Jacquelyn Acosta, who is also a graduating senior, echoed Ortiz’s feelings.

“I’m supposed to graduate this year so I definitely feel the sentiment of other students being that I’m a first-generation student, a woman of color, and low-income, Acosta said. "So I know what it’s like to basically have to work through all these barriers for the last couple of years.” 

Acosta said she met with President Covino to discuss commencement after the announcement was made.

“It’s still up in the air,” Acosta said. “He [Covino] did not want to say canceled or postponed specifically because we don’t really know where we’re at with the virus.”

Other graduating students like Pamela Sanchez, a fourth-year communications major, finds herself heartbroken over the news.

“It’s honestly very heartbreaking, especially because I worked [so hard] to graduate in four years and that was the one thing I was looking forward to.”

Although Sanchez is saddened by the news, she suggested that a survey should be done to see when or how the graduating seniors prefer their commencement.

Focused on addressing the changing developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commencement Committee stated, “We will be addressing the question of how best to acknowledge the hard work and achievement of our students. As soon as we are able to provide additional information, the Class of 2020 and the University community will be notified.”

Tahiti Salinas is a reported for University Times, the student news site of Cal State L.A.Complete coronavirus coverage by the University Times can be found at csulauniversitytimes.com/coronavirus.

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