‘I Was Deeply Disappointed’: Graduates Underwhelmed by Online Commencement Ceremony

Hunter College graduates took to social media to express their disappointment with the 2021 commencement ceremony. The school made mistakes throughout the ceremony and many students felt the event didn’t do enough to honor their journey and hard work.

Hunter held its graduation for over four thousand undergraduate and graduate students last Thursday. Because of COVID-19, the school decided not to hold an in-person ceremony for the graduating class. Instead, they sent out a link to a virtual celebration on the day of commencement. The webpage consisted of five pre-recorded videos, a letter from President Jennifer Raab and slides of the graduates consisting of their name, degree and optional quote. 

“I thought Hunter would give some appreciation to us and try,” said Samantha Aspiazu, who received her bachelor’s degree in human biology. “I thought even our virtual graduation would feel or seem special. It wasn’t.”

Hunter’s commencement ceremony included factual errors. Raab called graduating student Andrew Shkreli an English and psychology major; however, he received his degree in English literature with a certificate in human rights and a minor in public policy. A few students on Facebook expressed sadness that their slides weren’t included in commencement at all. 

“After working on my degree for over ten years, I was deeply disappointed to see that my name was not included in the virtual list of graduates. I had nothing to show my family that day,” said graduate Rachel Feldman, an English major with a concentration in creative writing. 

“They could have done the bare minimum to make sure all the people graduating had their names displayed.”

Emails Hunter sent to students in the weeks before graduation set higher expectations for many. 

“Since we were asked to submit information for our slide, I was expecting there to be an actual slideshow of the graduates,” said Christina Corossis, a psychology graduate with a minor in women’s and gender studies. 

“I understand that there are a lot of graduates, so creating a slideshow would have taken a lot of time,” Corossis said. “But having to search for your name to find your slide barely gives you any recognition.”

The easing of social distancing restrictions in New York and the expansion of vaccine eligibility to include all New York residents 12 years and older allowed Hunter to hold some in-person ceremonies. The Macaulay Honors at Hunter program, the School of Education and the sociology department held their ceremonies on the Hunter campus in late May and early June. Many students are upset that Hunter didn’t do this for all graduates.

“Hunter could have definitely found a way to hold some sort of in-person ceremony,”  Corossis said. “It would be a bit more memorable and nicer to celebrate with everyone, even if it was socially distanced.”

An assembly hall in Hunter's North building is empty but contains balloons and seats for the few small programs that were able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies.
The assembly hall in the North building is set up for small in-person graduation ceremonies. Photo by Rachel Zhang

With graduation being the last experience many students will have with the Hunter community, Aspiazu isn’t happy with how things went.

“The graduation upsets me. All this hard work and they couldn’t even have it live online so we could feel like we were there,” Aspiazu said. “If this graduation were to be graded as an assignment, it would get an F.”

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