MRU makes decision to postpone spring convocation in midst of COVID-19 pandemic
By Christian Kindrachuk, Staff Writer
Graduating students looking to convocate in June will have to wait — MRU has postponed this year’s spring convocation until fall due to COVID-19.
While the decision to postpone convocation is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it can still be disheartening for students set to convocate, like Axel Cuellar, a fourth year psychology degree major, who figured this would eventually happen, but was still disappointed.
“I was upset because you work for years to walk that stage and have that moment of appreciation. Those 15 minutes of you walking on stage and showing that ‘yes this is what it’s all worth.’ [And it’s] being taken away,” says Cuellar.
Phil Warsaba, MRU’s Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President says that MRU understands the magnitude of the achievement that comes with graduating, and it is something to celebrate.
“We know these are really big accomplishments for our graduates. We understand that our graduates need to be recognized and they need to be celebrated. Right now our priority is simply to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Warsaba explains.
With approximately 2,000 students set to graduate at the end of the 2019-20 academic year, and 1,250 students who were expected to participate in convocation prior to postponement, students will have to wait to find out what is next.
“We haven’t provided a specific date because there are a variety of options that we would like to look at. It may mean tacking on additional ceremonies onto the one ceremony that we typically hold in the fall,” says Warsaba. “Or it may mean that we offer separate ceremonies outside of November — possibly earlier than that.”
Cuellar claims that MRU is not on par with the kind of communication that other universities and other institutions have, pointing to the fact that MRU was one of the last schools to transition to online classes.
“I just think Mount Royal University is not a college anymore and they need to be on top of things better. It seems like U of C are always one step ahead of us,” says Cuellar. “If MRU wants to be taken seriously as a university, they need to step up their communication skills.”
It was not until March 24, that students received an email regarding convocation.
“I heard about the postponement from my honors prof. I didn’t even hear it from an official MRU person, I just heard it from one of my profs,” says Cuellar. “I think someone read a tweet from MRU recreation center and then another one of my friends heard it from Reddit.”
MRU has put up a FAQ on their website for convocation in an effort to try and inform students on recent changes. Decisions still have yet to be made on the next steps in regards to convocation, but the convocation committee on campus is hopeful.
“We’re sincerely hoping that students are going to come back and celebrate their achievements with us when we have the convocation committee that consists of representatives from across the institution,” says Warsaba. “That committee will reconvene when it is possible to do so under some more normal circumstances.”
Warsaba points out that he is planning to start early spring or after final exams. For Cuellar, he is not certain if he will be around in the fall for convocation due to grad school commitments on the other side of the country.
“I won’t be here for the convocation in the fall. That’s also why I’m sad because if I was going to be here, then I wouldn’t be too mad, but at the same time, it is what it is,” says Cuellar.
SAMRU is a member of the convocation committee. Kainat Javed, the Vice-President for student affairs, notes that this decision was made for the students. However, he also understands this decision is a hard one for students to process.
“Some students, who I personally have heard from, have told me they understand the decision, but if we do have students who reach out to us, we’ll be sure to let them know that this decision is in light of the current situation that we’re in,” says Javed. “And really, we’re again, putting everyone’s safety above everything else.”
Warsaba knows that this is disappointing for students, but says they are doing this to comply with direction from the province to prevent any further spread of COVID-19.
“We know that this is a really important event, and we’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that students will be able to celebrate appropriately as soon as it’s safe to do so,” says Warsaba.