Students hoping for postponement over cancellation for graduation

The graduates at Delta College's 2017 commencement ceremony. Photo by Mikael Honzell.

Delta College students set to graduate this spring may not have the opportunity to do what nearly every student dreams of — to walk the stage.

On March 26, Superintendent/President Omid Pourzanjani sent out a campus-wide email providing an update on how the institution is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All events have been cancelled until the public health risk subsides,” Pourzanjani said in the email. “We do not expect to be able to hold an in-person commencement ceremony in late May, and we are exploring possible alternative methods to mark this important occasion.”

Pourzanjani recommended family and friends of graduating students cancel any travel plans they might have made to attend the ceremony.

“I’ve been really excited about commencement for a long time. I know my family has been looking forward to it too,” student Ashley Brumm said.

Brumm, who will obtain her associate’s degree in business administration at the end of the semester, is disappointed by the cancellation of the in-person commencement ceremony.

“As simple as walking the stage may seem, I feel like it is an important event to celebrate your accomplishment. I know it matters a lot to students,” she said.

Brumm hopes Delta will postpone the ceremony instead of hosting a virtual ceremony like University of the Pacific is planning to do.

“I doubt many people would be interested in it,” she said. “It wouldn’t be the same. Cancelling the ceremony was out of Delta’s hands, but they’re still able to restore things and postpone the ceremony to a later date, which I think most students would be in favor of.”

While Alex Andrade, who is also expecting to graduate in May, understands why many students are feeling let down, he is not too upset over this decision.

“Personally, I do not care to walk the stage,” he said. “I had the experience in high school. I just want to get my degree and move on.”

There are students who didn’t have the opportunity to walk the stage in high school, including 61-year-old June Sidlauskas.

Sidlauskas went straight into the Navy after graduating from high school. When she retired from the service in 1991, she spent the next stage of her life working various jobs including security and retail.

“After working in retail for almost 14 years, my legs could not stand the constant pounding on the floor and standing,” Sidlauskas said.

In 2018, she decided to take advantage of the educational program that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers, in hopes it would lead her down a new career path.

Sidlauskas is slated to receive her associate’s degree in psychology in May and is planning to transfer to California State University, Stanislaus to earn her bachelor’s.

“I understand why the ceremony may not be held, but there are other people like me who have waited a long time for this moment,” she said. “We didn’t go to college right after high school and we’re accomplishing this later in life, which is pretty special. We want to have the honor of walking in our hard-earned commencement ceremony.”

Student Val Adamsky, who started pursuing her degree at 51, shares similar sentiments.

“I would rather wait to walk in the commencement ceremony because I have worked so hard and devoted so much of my time, I feel that a virtual ceremony would cheat me out of the whole pomp-and-circumstance,” she said.

Adamsky has a 90-year-old father who she said she would like to share photos from the ceremony with, as she is the first in her family to get a college degree.

“These are uncertain times but it is not something that will last forever,” Adamsky said.

She also said she believes a postponed commencement ceremony would be something to look forward to for “many students who have already been asked to sacrifice.”

Director of Marketing, Communications and Outreach, Alex Brietler, said the institution is open to receiving students’ input about what should be done in terms of commencement.