Cassel Open Air Theatre

Doane's Cassel Open Air Theatre, where the Spring Commencement ceremony usually takes place.

The 2020 Spring Commencement ceremony was officially cancelled earlier today. The ceremony was previously postponed until further notice, however, Doane has announced that there will be no ceremony for the 2020 Spring graduates at all.

Doane has announced that all 2020 Spring graduates will be able to attend the Winter Commencement ceremony or join the 2021 Spring graduates next May, however, they will not have a ceremony of their own.

Graduating students from both graduate and undergraduate programs have been sent their diplomas by mail. An email sent out to graduating students from the Provost and Executive Vice President of the Academic Affairs office Paul Savory said that there will not be a ceremony held over the summer.

“Planning for Commencement begins months in advance. With the current restrictions around social gatherings, we were not confident that we will be able to host a Commencement ceremony this summer that allows for social distancing and ensures the safety of everyone in attendance,” Savory’s email said. “As such, we have elected to not hold a ceremony this summer.”

Not only will the Spring graduates have no summer ceremony, but they have been told to join another class’s commencement later on. 

“As an alternative, we invite you to participate in our December 2020 or May 2021 Commencement ceremonies. It is my hope that you will be able to join us on December 15, 2020 (our Winter Commencement ceremony) or on May 15, 2021 (our Spring Commencement ceremony),” Savory said in his email.

2020 seniors have already expressed their concerns about joining another ceremony. Some have said that they feel neglected and uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their day with an entirely different class. 

Recent graduate Gabby Contreras has said that the news of the commencement ceremony being cancelled has been difficult. 

“I am incredibly saddened by the news that the Doane class of 2020 will not be getting our own graduation ceremony,” Contreras said. “While I completely understand the health concerns during this pandemic, it is really sad to think that myself and other seniors won’t be able to celebrate this amazing accomplishment alongside our peers, friends, family, and professors.”

Another graduating senior, Caitlyn Nelson, has said that she is disappointed with how Doane has handled the situation.

“I am disappointed,” Nelson said. “Not with commencement decisions, but everything leading up to it. It just feels like we were put on a back burner to the administration.”

Recent graduate Allison Baird said she feels as though joining the next class’s commencement celebration would be unfair to both groups.

“Our class deserves to have the celebration and recognition of our hard work, not thrown into other commencements like an afterthought. It’s not fair to us as a class, and frankly, it’s not fair to the class of 2021 either,” Baird said.

While the graduates have been offered to walk in future commencement ceremonies, such as the Winter ceremony which is held in the George and Sally Haddix Recreation Center, most have said it will not be as special as having their own ceremony in the Cassel Open Air Theatre.

“A huge part of the Doane experience is starting off in Cassel theatre with the candlelight ceremony as freshmen, and walking across the stage in Cassel to receive our diplomas as seniors,” Contreras said.

Many graduating seniors have shared this sentiment, saying that the Winter commencement is not the same, as it is not held in Cassel. When you first tour Doane’s campus, prior to becoming a student, they tell you about graduating in Cassel. Many feel that they are losing something if they are unable to walk down Cassel on the day of the ceremony. 

Not only has the graduating class of 2020 lost their commencement, but they lost many of their “lasts” as well. They never had their last choir concert or last theater performance. They never had their last class, at least not knowingly. After losing so much, Doane took away their final commencement as well.

“If classes can resume this fall, they should find a way to acknowledge the class that lost so much. I’m not asking for a perfect commencement in Cassel,” Baird said. “I'm simply asking that they honor the class of 2020 on their own, as we have poured time, money, skills, talents, and our hearts into this school and show that they care about us a sliver of how much we care about them.”

Nelson said Doane left much to be desired when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to the graduates. 

“There were lots of things that could have been done and it sucks seeing other schools giving their graduates attention and we got nothing,” Nelson said. “I guess Doane is teaching us how life is in the real world - sometimes you don't get praise for accomplishing really big things.”