Image Description: A woman wearing a graduation mortarboard and gown with a joyous expression on her face. The word “graduating” appears in the top right corner.
By Courtney Withers
A hot topic around UWA at the moment, apart from that post-Guild Elections talk, is, of course, the current situation with graduations on campus.
Although various other universities have announced that they will be holding graduation ceremonies in December, UWA has announced that there will be no physical graduation ceremonies on campus this year.
The University has stated that “the ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions in Western Australia” is the reason why these events are being postponed to a later date, which will most likely be in March 2021.
The Vice-Chancellor, Amit Chakma, emailed all students in early September to inform them of this decision, and the fact that it was not made lightly.
“UWA has a proud tradition of celebrating our graduating students in Winthrop Hall and we are mindful the current environment impacts on the quality of your graduation experience and your ability to celebrate this important milestone with your loved ones and fellow class mates,” Vice-Chancellor Chakma said.
“Our hope is that by delaying the ceremonies to March we can plan with greater confidence for our graduation ceremonies, and be able to celebrate without restrictions so that those of you eligible to graduate, near and far, may be able to join us for these celebrations.
“All eligible students will graduate in-absentia (without being present) on Monday 14 December 2020. The conferral of awards in December will ensure no delay to your professional or further study goals.”
Although this decision was not made lightly, and takes into account the safety of staff, students, and the wider community, the announcement has caused some negative commentary.
Vice-Chancellor Chakma followed up with a second email to students on 25th September regarding the comments the University was receiving, and to provide further explanation about the decision to post-pone the ceremonies.
“I would like to acknowledge comments about the University’s recent decision to postpone December 2020 graduations to March 2021,” Vice-Chancellor Chakma said.
“UWA has a proud tradition of celebrating our graduating students in Winthrop Hall and based on 2019 graduate survey responses, we know how highly you value this unique venue.
“With the current restrictions and ongoing uncertainty, we feel it would adversely impact the quality of the experience that our graduating students and their guests expect and deserve.
“We understand that this decision is very disheartening for graduating students but it reflects the ongoing need for our recovery planning to remain flexible and consistent with public health advice while Western Australia is still impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.”
In regards to not having a physical ceremony on campus for those graduating in 2020, Vice-Chancellor Chakma outlined that students would have the opportunity to celebrate with their family on campus “to collect their testamur in person, book regalia, photography and merchandise services”, in order to provide some sense of regularity.
There will also be a celebratory video with UWA facility published to the University’s website on 14th December.
Although the University has received backlash for their decision to postpone the graduation events, especially considering other universities are continuing with their graduation ceremonies, they have announced that students graduating this year will still be able to attend an in-person ceremony in March 2021 – so it’s not all doom and gloom!
The University has stated that by March next year, there will be far more confidence in planning such large events on campus, without the presence of restrictions.
After contacting the UWA news and media team, the following response was received regarding graduations from a University spokesperson:
“From Tuesday 15 December to Friday 18 December students will be able to pre-book and pick up their regalia on campus, enabling them to have photos taken with family and friends to celebrate this significant milestone. We encourage students to take advantage of the various photographic venues, including studio sittings, Winthrop Hall stage and iconic locations around campus. Students will also be able to pre-order and collect their degree certificate while on campus, instead of having it mailed out on Monday, 14 December 2020. More information on the process for booking regalia, photography and degree certificate collection, will be emailed to students by the end of October. The budget that had been allocated to the December 2020 graduation ceremonies will be used instead to deliver the March 2021 graduation ceremonies.”
UWA Guild President Bre Shanahan also acknowledged the situation with graduation events this year, and where The Guild stood on the issue.
“We understand that the postponement of the ceremony has been disappointing for many students,” Bre said.
“We have been in contact with UWA about this, however, it is unlikely they will change their decision at this stage.
“We are working with the University to investigate other ways of celebrating achievement this year, such as providing regalia and a photographer in front of Winthrop Hall.”
More information about the on-campus graduations will be communicated shortly, so stay up to date with both students emails, and the graduation page on the University’s website.
Courtney is currently bedazzling a graduation cap like Sharpay Evans’ in High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
Picture courtesy of The University of Western Australia.