Several Class of 2020 graduates are calling on UC San Diego to hold an official commencement ceremony for their class after the University announced on April 14 that the Class of 2021’s commencement will be in-person.
The Office of the Chancellor sent out an email on April 30, 2020 informing the UCSD community that “traditional in-person commencement ceremonies” for the Class of 2020 would be held in the future, but has not released more details about their plans yet.
Many 2020 graduates were disappointed that they will not be part of the upcoming commencement ceremonies, despite the promise of participation in future alumni events.
Class of 2020 graduate Kaylee Bashor created a petition that urges UCSD to hold an in-person commencement for Class of 2020, especially with first generation students in mind. The petition has garnered over 1,100 signatures so far.
“UCSD consistently states that they support first-generation students, yet they just ripped away the opportunity for them to be the first in their family to celebrate this insane accomplishment[,] despite their previous promises to give us an in-person commencement, and that made me unsettled enough to spearhead this effort,” Bashor said in an email to The Triton.
Commenters on the petition have also expressed their support for an in-person commencement.
Aside from creating the petition, Bashor has also spread awareness for the Class of 2020 by reaching out to numerous local news outlets and posting memes on social media.
Alongside Bashor, 2020 graduate and former Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Adarsh Parthasarathy, is also advocating for an in person ceremony. Though the two said they were happy that the Class of 2021 will have an in-person commencement but were also disappointed that UCSD did not mention any plans for the Class of 2020.
“Many other schools who are frankly far less prepared for COVID than UCSD are completely able to do an in-person graduation for both 2020 and 2021,” Parthasarathy said. “So that’s kind of [when] I decided that I felt like I needed to do something about this.”
Following the Commencement 2021 announcement, Parthasarathy reached out and emailed 15 campus executives, deans, and professors asking them for help in finding out what is UCSD’s plan for Class of 2020 or whether the University is willing to uphold the Chancellor’s promise of holding an in-person commencement in the future. The responses he received from some of the UCSD staff were positive and supportive, and Parasarathy said the Council of Provosts likely had a discussion regarding this situation.
“I believe that there are a large number of people in the admin who really care about students. But the fact of the matter is [that] they will not do anything until the students come and say something to them,” Parathasay said. “Unless the alumni come in and say that we are upset and we register our grievances with them, they [will show no sign that] they were going to do anything…at all.”
Chancellor Pradeep Khosla sent an email to the Class of 2020 on April 16 announcing that the University is planning a Class of 2020 graduation celebration in October when more individuals are expected to be vaccinated.
“UC San Diego’s intentions have been, and continue to be, to celebrate the Class of 2020 through a unique event to their achievements,” said Erika Johnson, Assistant Director of University Communications, in an email to The Triton. “We hope to incorporate as many of the personal and special commencement ceremony elements into the celebration, which we recognize are important to all graduates.”
However, some commenters on UCSD’s Reddit page have noted that a graduation celebration may not be the same as a commencement ceremony. Alumni reunions take place at Homecoming in October, and there is some concern that the Class of 2020 Graduation Celebration may simply be added to these events.
Specific details for the celebration in October have not been finalized, and event plans will depend on public health guidelines.
Chancellor Khosla’s update comes as other universities in California announce their plans to celebrate both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 at in-person commencement ceremonies. This includes University of San Diego, San Diego State University, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Los Angeles, and University of Southern California.
All of the UC schools will have a combination of in-person processionals and virtual commencement ceremonies this spring. UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara invited Class of 2020 graduates to walk across the stage, while UC Davis and UCLA plan to hold an in-person commencement for the Class of 2020 in the future.
To Parthasarathy, having an in-person commencement is important because it represents a closing chapter of his time at UCSD before he moves on to the next chapter of his life. He also noted that he can’t imagine how valuable experiencing an in-person commencement is to first generation students.
”I think [it’s] equally important to be able to celebrate each other because none of us did it alone. We had our families, we had our friends, and we want the opportunity for them to come with us back to campus and join in our happiness that we were able to accomplish this thing,” Parthasarathy said.
Elizabeth Peng is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton.