Colleges, universities taking fall graduations virtual as COVID-19 cases surge

The University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky, and Simmons College have all made the decision to cancel their in-person ceremonies.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Several Kentucky universities and colleges have decided to hold their fall semester graduation ceremonies virtually as coronavirus cases continue to rise around the state and country.

Behrad Bakhtiari knows the feeling of not being able to walk across the stage at graduation and not celebrate with his friends.

“That was the thing that hit me the hardest because it’s like these are friends you’ve been in class with, been in school with, gone to football games with and done a bunch of things with, so that was probably the hardest thing,” he said.

As a May 2020 UofL graduate, Bakhtiari said he understands why some of his fellow graduates were upset about having their in-person graduation ceremonies canceled, but he also recognizes the need for safety. But he said he would have liked to have attended one.

“If it was in December and I think I would have gone,” he said. “I don’t know why I wouldn’t have gone. It’s just another celebration, I guess some kind of closure for me.”

People aged 20 to 29 have made up the largest portion of coronavirus cases in Kentucky when sorted by age range, with some college campuses seeing outbreaks around the country, and as cases continue to rise, college administrators said it just was not safe to let graduates walk.

“Look, not going to kid you, it’s not going to be the same, but we want to try to make it as special as we can, to do everything we can for our graduates because they deserve it,” UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said.

The University of Kentucky says another factor in their decision was the fact that students would be doing at-home learning after Thanksgiving.

“We thought with the combination of the trajectory of the virus and it’s status right now, the idea of trying to bring students back for a ceremony where you probably couldn’t have parents there anyways given the size of the gathering, we thought this was both the safest route and most practical at this time,” Blanton said.

Many universities, including UK and UofL, have said graduates who wish to walk will be able to do so in the future once it is safe to do so. For Bakhtiari, he’s not sure when his chance will come, if ever.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get like traditional closure,” he said. “I’m kind of used to it now and it is what it is, and you can’t change that and you can’t force that upon the circumstances.”

The University of Louisville will hold its commencement ceremony virtually on December 12 at 4 p.m.

The University of Kentucky will hold its commencement ceremony virtually on December 4 at 2 p.m.

Simmons College will hold its commencement ceremony virtually November 22 at 6 p.m.