Meg Edwards and Hailey de la Vara
Ohio Wesleyan University announced Tuesday it is postponing commencement ceremonies – for now.
In another stunning blow to students already reeling from cancelation of all class meetings for the remainder of the semester due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, OWU President Rock Jones sent a campus-wide email just before 3 p.m., sharing the message he gave to the senior class about graduation earlier in the day.
“ … my heart aches knowing that you can’t be on campus to complete your senior year,” the email said. “(But) will we have a Class of 2020 ceremony? The answer is a resounding YES!”
The date for that, however, is yet to be determined.
With a nod to the current reality, Jones wrote: “I can’t wait to hand you your diploma and shake your hand (or maybe bump your elbow) as you walk across the graduation stage in front of cheering family members and friends.”
Jones promised additional “festivities” would be planned for graduating seniors so they could properly celebrate with classmates and families.
Nonetheless, for seniors like Mahnoor Ansari, it was a bitter pill to swallow. She groaned when she saw the email on her phone.
“I don’t want to read it,” she said.
Senior Emily VanDermark, who is on OWU’s women’s softball team, said she is having a difficult time wrapping her head around the entire situation.
“For me the whole situation is just really sad. Mostly because it isn’t directly anyone’s fault,” she said. “In a span of one week I’ve lost my final season and my last times on campus with my classmates, sorority sisters, teammates and friends.”
Meanwhile, across campus students were hauling refrigerators and boxes of clothes out of their dorms, with many parents trailing close behind.
Sophomore Jacquelyn Keslar said the campus was turning into a ghost town.
Although new guidelines require the Bishop Cafe to close its seated dining area, students gathered Tuesday with their carry-out food in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center atrium to share a meal with friends before leaving campus.
Jones acknowledged this new darker reality in his email, but also offered encouragement.
“The spirit of the campus, while saddened by the departure of students and the need for most of us to isolate and work remotely, is strong and good,” he wrote. “We are fortunate to be a part of the Bishop family, and we are grateful for the support that has been shared by so many.”