Recent alums were relieved and supportive of the University's decision to cancel their commencement.
Without an official ceremony, Furman still hopes to celebrate the Class of 2020 graduates.
On Sept. 30, Furman announced that the Class of 2020’s rescheduled Oct. 31 Commencement Ceremony was cancelled. This decision was made in the light of South Carolina's persistently high COVID-19 case rate and reflects current policies that keep Furman’s campus closed to the public.
Following the announcement, President Davis encouraged all 2020 graduates to fill out a survey and suggest how the university can honor their achievements and time as Furman students. Davis said, “There is nothing I can say that will properly convey how heartbreaking it is for your alma mater to delay your well-deserved recognition.” Davis acknowledged the Class of 2020’s disappointment and added that this decision was not made easily, and was done so with the health and safety of the entire Furman community as the priority.
Several graduates responded to the announcement. Sarah Rinker (‘20) shared, “Though I am sad about COVID-19 cutting my time at Furman short, I appreciate knowing that Furman is taking precautions against the virus seriously.” Overall, Rinker is personally relieved that she will not have to endure the “social pressures” of attending a large graduation ceremony during the pandemic. Rinker added that she supports the University’s decision to cancel Commencement, because it prioritizes the entire community’s health and safety. Rinker is still saddened “to not have the normal celebration,” but is overall content with the decision.
Brie DiPietro (‘20) reacted to the decision saying, “I want my last memories on campus to be the beautiful spring we had in March.” DiPietro added that those memories are far more valuable than any experience a questionable graduation ceremony would produce. If the Class of 2020 did have a Commencement ceremony, DiPietro assumed Furman would restrict guests and masks would be mandatory, and she “doesn’t want her last memory of Furman to be that.”
Not surprised by the decision, DiPietro said, “At this point I don’t have a life at Furman anymore.” She added that although she wanted to have a graduation ceremony, cancelling Commencement was a good decision, and she likely would not have attended an in-person ceremony.
Although the news was hard to hear, Julia Heinly (‘20) believes the decision helps protect the Class of 2021’s ability to remain on-campus for the remainder of their senior year. After experiencing “how heartbreaking it was to have graduation taken away,” Heinly believes Furman made the right choice. Furthermore, Heinly added, “A postponed commencement ceremony was only going to reopen wounds that had already healed,” as she reflected on missing out on final nights in her apartment, LDOC and many more senior rituals.
Lexi Rosenblatt (‘20) echoed Heinly’s comments and added that although health and safety are both priorities, “the decision still stings.” Rosenblatt still has not been able to reunite with friends, but noted that she would “not be willing to do so if it still meant endangering the health of a community I love.”
Currently, Rosenblatt and many of her peers are starting at new jobs or graduate schools. She said, “At this point, I’d just like to know if we’ll have a virtual ceremony, or no ceremony at all,” remarking that she, along with her peers, may not have the time in the future to take off work or school if they need to travel to Greenville.