When the COVID-19 pandemic swiftly cancelled most scheduled events in the spring, the University of Mississippi class of 2020 left Oxford with a virtual ceremony replacing its in-person graduation. According to a university spokesman, though, the university still plans to hold an in-person commencement ceremony.
“We remain committed to holding an in-person ceremony for the Class of 2020,” university spokesman Rod Guajardo said in a statement. “Currently, these restrictions prevent us from celebrating the number of people who graduated in 2020. Once we know when it will be safe to host large events in compliance with executive and local orders, we will announce the new date for an in-person commencement.”
Guajardo said any in-person events on campus, including commencement, must comply with current executive and local orders and guidelines — including the Safe Return order of Gov. Tate Reeves’s reopening plan, the City of Oxford’s Serving Oxford Safely plan and public health recommendations.
“It’s very disappointing not knowing if or when we will have a makeup graduation,” class of 2020 alum Madison Daniels said. “I want to have one because I have worked hard for four years to get to have commencement in the Grove and celebrate with my friends and family in Oxford.”
When the university hosted its virtual ceremony on May 9, though, Daniels said she celebrated with a drive-by party at her house, and while it was nothing like she had originally planned, she understands the reasoning behind virtual graduation during a pandemic.
Fellow alum Dugan Walker said that his virtual graduation celebration was minimal, opting to commemorate the day with his immediate family since the rest of his family was unable to fly to Oxford during the pandemic.
Still, he isn’t upset about the lack of an in-person ceremony. Walker said he knows what he has accomplished and considers the graduation ceremony as more of an opportunity for his family to see his time and efforts pay off. Walker is now back at the university to get his Master’s degree.
“I have the opportunity for ‘another’ graduation at Ole Miss,” Walker said. “This makes the wait or potential lack of in-person graduation less of a problem for my situation.”
Also a member of the 2020 class, Katie Davis said that she forgot about the possibility of an in-person graduation because no one knows when it’s going to happen. Nonetheless, she enjoyed the virtual ceremony, watching it live at the Student Union with a few of her friends and concluding it with a victory lap around the Lyceum.
“I feel like the university just did such a great job with (virtual graduation), and I feel very happy with the online one,” Davis said. “But I think sometime in the future, a real one would be a great reunion and a great signal to a victory over the COVID crisis.”