Graduating without graduation

Santa+Rosa+Junior+College+will+not+hold+an+in-person+commencement+ceremony+after+the+Spring+2020+semester+due+to+the+coronavirus+pandemic.

Courtesy SRJC

Santa Rosa Junior College will not hold an in-person commencement ceremony after the Spring 2020 semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arthur Gonzalez-Martin, Staff Writer

I can’t think of an event I have more mixed feelings about than this; the day I finally finish school and walk with my peers, in robe and cap, down the aisle. I can almost hear my friends and family laughing, cheering, and crying as I walk onto the stage and complete a major milestone in my life. And yet the questions I imagine people will ask me are the source of even more mixed emotions. “What will you do after this, Arthur?” “What college will you go to next?” “How much debt will you be in?”

I had thought the most difficult aspect of graduating would be telling people that I don’t intend to go to a 4-year college, that I can’t justify spending that much for college for my degree that overall may not be worth enough to pay back.

Now I’m concerned I might not walk at all.

Call me a little selfish or just plain mad from cabin fever, but graduation should happen one way or another, with a strong preference for it being in-person, even if it ends up being a joint 2020/2021 graduation ceremony. There should be some sort of formal celebration for the students that worked hard and spent long months, if not years, pulling all-nighters, juggling packed class schedules, and trying to balance school with life and work.

This is on top of the tuition costs that have risen steadily since at least ’08 (I remember only having to pay 60 dollars with the BoG waver, which is now about 100 dollars). In addition, most of the school year’s events have been canceled. Frankly, I think we should be given a graduation ceremony, even if it’s delayed by a month or two.

You may think graduation getting canceled is no big deal; we are a two-year school and a transfer school at that. If I’m going to be moving on to UC Berkeley or UC Davis, why even have it? Well, for a number of people this is as far as their education goes, for this is still a community college.

SRJC has a number of trade-related certificate programs that train electricians, mechanics, wine specialists and more. It has training centers for police, firefighters, ambulance drivers and specialists of every kind; there is even a farm where people train to become the next generation of farmers and agricultural specialists. Students can even train to get their pilot’s license. I believe these trades students are the backbone of the college — only 8.31% of students go on to transfer to a 4-year college.

If you’re wondering why our graduation ceremony should be rescheduled instead of turned into an online event, it’s because we need to normalize. This lockdown—this quarantine—can’t go on forever. We are either going to eventually pass the COVID-19 hump or the population will go broke, homeless, mad, and hungry.

So, a traditional graduation ceremony needs to happen—for the mental health of the student body, if not for the greater community itself. It needs to be live, it needs to be in-person, it needs to be held under the sun, and it needs to remain the milestone it’s always been.