UNC moves classes online for remainder of semester, cancels spring commencement ceremonies

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President Andy Feinstein announced Friday that the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to keep tuition flat for the University of Northern Colorado’s 2020-21 academic year. The Board of Trustees also voted to increase student fees by $75 per semester. Photo courtesy of unco.edu.

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the evolving global crisis, the University of Northern Colorado announced Monday that all classes will be delivered online for the remainder of the spring semester. Spring 2020 graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies have also been cancelled.

This announcement came a week after President Andy Feinstein communicated the university’s decision to move all UNC classes online through April 5.

“With new guidance coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of Colorado, we have made the decision to extend the duration of alternate course delivery, beginning March 25, through the end of the Spring 2020 semester,” Feinstein wrote in the email sent to campus. “Classes on Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24 have been canceled to allow faculty time to prepare for alternate delivery; previously scheduled online classes will occur as normal on those dates.”

According to the email, UNC decided to cancel the spring graduation ceremonies based on guidance from the CDC and others. UNC is working on alternate plans for graduates to celebrate commencement. Students are being vocal about their disappointment regarding the cancellation of graduation. 

“I’m honestly disappointed, devastated, and heartbroken,” said Tabitha Jones, a UNC senior and sociology major. ”My freshman year of college, I left my previous school because I couldn’t afford it and I took a semester off. During that semester, I had doubts I would never be able to graduate again. So when I found out about my acceptance into UNC, I pushed myself in everything I did, including my grades, my extracurricular activities, and my relationships with colleagues, peers, professors, friends, and family. So to find out I am not able to have a ceremony to celebrate the work ethic I put in for five years is detrimental to me. As a black woman, it is important to me to show other black women we can be successful, too. How can I represent my people publicly without a commencement ceremony? Also, there are so many systemic barriers I had to face during my college career on top of being involved in 50 organizations and maintaining a magna cum laude grade point average.” 

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Katrina Rodriguez, vice president of Campus Community and Climate, and Tobias Guzmán, assistant vice president of Campus Community and Climate, have posted a question directed at soon-to-be UNC graduates on social media. The post asks whether students would prefer UNC to conduct a special graduation ceremony in October, allow them to graduate with fall students at the December ceremony, have a virtual graduation or just have UNC mail students their diplomas.

An official UNC survey has been sent out to students.

“I would be okay with rescheduling graduation,” said Jordyn McClinon, a UNC senior and English Major.  “ I just want to walk across the stage and have my family there when they call my name for all the hard work I have put in over these past several years. Regarding the option for students to walk in December with the fall graduates is illogical because there are too many graduates in the spring and fall combined to fit in Butler-Hancock. It’s not realistic and people already have a spring graduation planned, it wouldn’t be right to have them walk in the winter ceremony.”

In a follow-up email sent from the student body president, Mika Tancayo apologized to the class of 2020 and discussed the frustration and hurt the UNC community is facing.

“For some of us we unknowingly said goodbye to our classmates, professors, and friends for the last time,” Tancayo wrote. “We took our last in person college class, had our last extracurricular meeting, played our last athletic event, greeted the custodian for the last time, basically had a lot of ‘lasts’ that no one could have predicted. The future continues to be unknown which makes this more difficult to navigate and process through.”

According to the email, Tancayo urges students to keep checking the university’s coronavirus FAQs page for updates.

“I truly am so sorry for the cancellation of our commencement,” Tancayo wrote. “While others are telling us that they are proud of us for even getting this far and the degree will be worth it, I know that standing on that stage and hearing your name called and taking pictures in your regalia is something that we all dreamed of. It’s what kept us pushing all these years.”

Tancayo’s term ends in May and will continue to email the campus periodically with updates until then. 

“I know hearing the words ‘let’s finish this semester strong’ is probably not something you care for right now, just know regardless of how you finish this semester, I am rooting for you,” Tancayo wrote.

McClinon said one of the hardest parts about switching to online courses is she will be missing a few faculty and staff members as well as peers. 

“I am feeling very sad,” said McClinon. “I was unaware of Friday being my last in-class experience ever. Being done in May means I was cut short of college experiences that I cherish so much while being at UNC.”

In addition to in-person class and commencement cancellations, all in-person events and meetings have been canceled for the remainder of the semester and UNC campuses have closed. All nonessential university employees are to work remotely whenever possible. Employees who cannot work remotely will be placed on paid administrative leave. For seniors, seeing their teachers for the final time is unsettling. Jones said she was looking forward to the last few events of the semester and not being able to give proper goodbyes to her friends is disappointing. 

“I was looking forward to my last few meetings with the organizations I’m involved in at UNC such as Black Student Union, Black Women of Today, Black Campus Ministry, and African Students United,” said Jones. “I was looking forward to the annual Meet the Greeks Yard Show and performing with my sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I was looking forward to the College of Humanities and Social Science Honor Convocation so I can be recognized  for my achievements in Africana Studies. I was looking forward to all the end of the year parties, and cookouts. I was looking forward to the Black Excellence Ceremony, so I can celebrate myself, and other black students who are graduating this year. I was looking forward to my last moments at the dining areas, just for nostalgia. I was looking forward to the rest of my classes in person because I will not see my peers again. I was looking forward to presenting my research on hair discrimination at research day and of course, I was looking forward to graduation. Spring semester has much to offer for everyone, and for it to be taken away because of this pandemic is sad.”

According to Feinstein’s email, students are also encouraged not to return to live on campus after spring break. Students who do not have an alternate place to live may continue to live in the residence halls. Dining options will be available for students who choose to continue living in the halls.

“Students who live in residence halls are asked not to return to campus immediately to collect their belongings,” Feinstein wrote. “Residence Hall staff need time to create a plan that allows students to collect belongings while respecting social distancing.”

The Division of Student Affairs will communicate with students who live on campus with more information. 

“This is a time of incredible uncertainty both on campus and in every facet of our lives,” Feinstein wrote. “I would like to thank each of you for the hard work you are doing as we adapt to a situation like none we have experienced before.”

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