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SBU planning in-person graduation in September for 2020 graduates

The outside of Stony Brook University’s administration building in March 2020. Stony Brook University announced that they plan to hold an in-person commencement for its 2020 graduates. RABIA GURSOY/STATESMAN FILE

Stony Brook University plans to hold an in-person September commencement for the Class of 2020, but some graduates aren’t sure if they plan to attend.

According to a new page on the university’s commencement website, the ceremony will be held on Friday, Sept. 10 in Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Stony Brook University officials said planning is still underway and further updates will be posted online over the next few weeks.

We heard you. We know how incredibly important this event is to you, and we are determined to honor your accomplishments and give you the celebration you deserve,” the site read. “You will now be able to don your regalia, toss your cap and pose for pictures with your loved ones, creating those special graduation memories to treasure.”

In-person commencement went virtual last year, due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors at the time react with anger and dismay — nearly 1,700 signed a petition to postpone an in-person ceremony instead. 

At this point, however, some graduates said they don’t think they’ll plan to attend a September ceremony. Haley Ryan, a 2020 graduate with degrees in chemical engineering and applied mathematics, said that — although she thinks it’s nice that Stony Brook is trying to honor the Class of 2020 — she worries “that turnout won’t be as great as they’d hope it would be.” 

“I have a lot of friends that are in grad school/new entry level positions in other states that they can’t afford to miss,” she said. “But I’m not sure there would ever be a perfect day to accommodate everyone, so I’m glad there is at least an option to have an in person ceremony.”

Ryan said at this point the ceremony isn’t very important to her, since it’s been a year “since graduating on [her] couch,” but she might go to connect with friends she hasn’t seen since campus housing shut down last March.

Justin Bettenhauser, a 2020 graduate with a degree in atmospheric science who signed last year’s petition, is pursuing a master’s degree in applied meteorology at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. His semester starts in August. 

Although he’s glad Stony Brook “is finally following through on having an in-person ceremony for the 2020 graduating class,” he isn’t sure if he’ll attend himself. 

Melanie Fales, who graduated with a theater degree in May, expressed a similar sentiment.

“I think it’s great that they’re doing that for the people who want it,” she said. “I don’t think I will though.”

She feels disconnected because there was no department graduation for her degree — Fales was the last theater major at Stony Brook — and her other friends in the theater department graduated before her. She didn’t even buy a cap and gown. 

“I wouldn’t [want to] go just for me,” she said. “I still love the school though and I think it’s wonderful they’re doing it.”

The university did not elaborate on how it plans to contact 2020 graduates about in-person commencement.

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