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UCLA seniors ‘devastated’ as campus cancels traditional graduation ceremonies

A UCLA student celebrates with a classmate during a graduation ceremony.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA will cancel traditional graduation ceremonies and hold them remotely to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Chancellor Gene Block announced Wednesday.

“As we all work to limit the spread of COVID-19, it has become increasingly clear that we will not be able to gather in person for spring 2020 commencement ceremonies, so the College commencement, doctoral hooding ceremony and all campus graduation ceremonies will be adapted to be virtual events,” Block said in a message to the campus community.

The announcement devastated many seniors, who said they feel robbed of the joyous capstone to their college journey. Already, students are circulating at least three petitions signed by thousands of people urging UCLA officials to reverse what they regard as a premature decision, said Victoria Solkovits, a student leader and senior majoring in political science and human biology and society.

Solkovits said she and her family and friends have been crying ever since they learned of the decision on Twitter early Wednesday evening.

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“Devastated, confused, angry are the kind of emotions that me and a lot of my classmates are going through,” Solkovits said. “We understand public health and public safety ... but commencement is truly one of the most memorable events in our lives. So I think we’re all pretty astounded that they would think that this was the right decision at this time.”

UCLA’s decision follows a similar announcement last week by UC Irvine, which was the first of nine University of California undergraduate campuses to cancel in-person graduation events.

The campus, like scores of colleges and universities across the country, has moved to online learning and strongly encouraged students to return home and stay there to avoid possible exposure to the infectious disease in dorms and dining halls. UCLA will continue remote instruction and a suspension of all large gatherings through the end of spring quarter.

Block said UCLA College, whose commencement is the largest, will hold an “engaging” virtual ceremony on June 12. The name of the keynote speaker will be announced soon, he said.

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He said the difficult decision to cancel traditional graduation ceremonies was “driven entirely by our desire to protect the health and safety of our community, which includes all of the family and friends who would have joined us at our commencement ceremonies.

“Please remember that, even for an event as momentous as commencement, the day does not define the journey,” he said. “Even when we are apart, we remain deeply connected as Bruins.”

Solkovits, however, said such comments seemed to discount the importance of the ceremonies to students and their families. To walk across a stage in cap and gown with thousands of fellow Bruins, celebrating their accomplishments and cheering each other on, is a moment she has long dreamed of, she said.

“For a lot of us, this is a group journey,” she said. “Our families have been with us through it and this is a moment we were all hoping for together. It feels like it’s being ripped away.”


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