Thompson Rivers University has cancelled its spring convocation ceremonies due to social-distancing measures implemented in B.C. to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The post-secondary institution is planning to send degrees and commemorative booklets to grads via mail and is considering creating a virtual space where graduates, family and friends can share congratulations.
But fifth-year TRU student Nicole Welsh, on the verge of receiving her bachelor of science degree, doesn’t want the university to pull the cord on the in-person ceremonies just yet.
Welsh has created a petition — online here — calling on the university to make an effort and plan for an alternative ceremony later.
“It’s an important day for us, but also, so many of our parents have made sacrifices to give us opportunities they didn’t have — and this is one of those big things in our lives where this is a moment to celebrate us but also our parents and family,” Welsh told KTW.
Having come to Kamloops from Richmond to attend TRU, Welsh said her parents have been looking forward to graduation day for years. She said not being able to share that moment of crossing the graduation stage with them is most disappointing of all.
As of Thursday morning, her petition had amassed more than 2,600 signatures.
“TRU needs to step up for these students. We deserve it,” Welsh wrote on her change.org petition. “It is absolutely crushing to learn by email that your university is doing absolutely nothing to ensure that you get to have that moment of pride and celebration. It is crushing to read that you may get ‘messages of congratulations’ through a virtual platform — we can get that on our own.”
TRU opted to cancel, rather than postpone, the spring ceremonies given the current uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, TRU spokesperson Darshan Lindsay told KTW via email.
“We are in the process of planning how we can hold convocation online or virtually,” Lindsay said.
Welsh said she emailed TRU president Brett Fairbairn, asking that he consider amalgamating the spring convocation ceremonies with those scheduled for the fall semester, but said she has not received a response.
Lindsay told KTW some students have asked about the possibility of combining spring and fall convocation ceremonies, but noted there are no plans to do so at this time.
Welsh said she would like to see TRU follow the lead of universities such as UBC, which has only postponed its spring graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic, in addition to planning a virtual graduation ceremony.
“Obviously, at this time, we don’t know when any of this is going to end,” Welsh said. “We don’t expect them [TRU] to provide us with an alternate date at this point, but it would just be nice to see some sort of commitment that they will try to celebrate us at some point in-person.”
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has instituted bans on gatherings of more than 50 people and has urged the public to maintain a two-metre (six-foot) distance from each other in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, making in-person convocation ceremonies essentially impossible to hold.
Henry said measures may not remain at the current level for the entire length social distancing is required, but it’s not clear when any easing of restrictions may be possible. Social distancing will be needed at least until a COVID-19 vaccine can be produced, Henry said.
Welsh said the response to her petition, which launched March 31, has been better than she ever expected and hopes TRU will take notice and reconsider cancelling in-person spring convocation ceremonies altogether.