Crowds fill the stands at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium during the 2019 commencement ceremony

Graduates and their friends and family fill the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium during the 147th Commencement ceremony in May 2019. 

The COVID-19 virus outbreak has caused drastic changes for the University of Kansas, resulting in online classes for the remainder of the spring semester, the return of KU students who studied abroad and the cancellation of the NCAA March Madness tournament.

Schools across the country have canceled their spring commencements due to the outbreak, including Kansas State, the University of Michigan and Columbia and Barnard Universities. This news is leaving seniors particularly anxious, as it puts the University’s 148th Commencement ceremony, scheduled for May 17, at risk of cancellation.

“Our ceremony is both beautiful and a rite unlike others. It’s worth waiting a bit longer and monitoring developments before we make a decision on this tradition,” Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said in a campus-wide message. 

Universities who have canceled their ceremonies are trying to come up with alternate ways to celebrate their graduates. 

Students at the University of Maine threw an impromptu celebration called  “Coronamencement” where over 400 students gathered at one of the university's libraries and received printed off diplomas. University officials even attended the event in an effort to show support to their graduating seniors, according to an article from Bangor Daily News. 

While the University has not made a final decision as to if the traditional commencement ceremony will take place, many seniors already feel like they lost their last semester on the hill.

“I didn’t even get to say goodbye to anyone, which sucks,” said Arielle Kelly, a senior from Chicago studying community health.

The possibility of a commencement cancellation is not only saddening to the seniors themselves, but also to their families.

Raul Saenz, a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, studying biology, is a first generation college student. Saenz said the cancellation of commencement would be more disheartening to his parents than to himself, as they were looking forward to watching Saenz, their family’s first college graduate, walk across the stage and receive a diploma.

“I have worked so hard the past four years for the opportunity to walk across the stage and walk down the hill,” said Cassie Arrington, a senior from California studying athletic training.

Some seniors said they are open to a delay of the commencement ceremony, if it still means an in-person ceremony. 

“Even if it has to be postponed, I would totally support that, but a cancellation would be just devastating,” said Courtney Van Eaton, a senior from Colby studying accounting.

Part of what makes the commencement ceremony so special to Jayhawks is the tradition of it all, Van Eaton said. 

“It’s hard to even imagine what could replace it, I mean anything that’s like a virtual ceremony just could not even do half of the justice,” Van Eaton said.  

The University will communicate its decision to hold commencement and other changes to operation through a coronavirus updates page and other channels as needed, University spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said in an email to the Kansan.