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Graduating Cal Poly seniors heartbroken over canceled commencement ceremony

Posted at 6:17 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 10:25:28-04

The Cal Poly campus looks a lot like any normal post graduation summer day, with empty sidewalks, vacant eateries, and silence where the sounds of chatter usually rings through the air.

Except seniors are still taking finals and the spring commencement ceremony has been indefinitely postponed.

The coronavirus restrictions in place across California mean many college seniors, including those at Cal Poly, will not get the opportunity to graduate during a public commencement ceremony.

"I really hoped everything was going to blow over, we were going to go back to class and everything," Sam Spitz, a senior majoring in journalism, said. "Getting that email was pretty... honestly it didn't register with me at first."

That email from Cal Poly leadership announced the remainder of spring courses would move online.

"I think the biggest change has been in study habits," Philip Martin, a senior majoring in environmental earth and soil sciences, said. "It feels like we're walking through a dream right now in the sense that I've never been home-schooled, but that's really what's happening."

And that special day of diploma distribution that many of these students looked forward to for four years is now uncertain.

University officials said they are looking into alternative ways to recognize graduating seniors but no details of that plan have been released.

"I just ordered my cap and gown last week and invitation cards," Spitz said. "Just knowing that's not going to happen now, it's hard."

For these seniors, late nights study sessions, football games, and fun with friends will forever be summed up with a single word.

"Quarantine," Martin said. "Just the word quarantine sits in the back of our heads."

As many students heed the advice of campus officials to move home, many seniors are left to reflect on this bittersweet end to their college career.