As the University enters another year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's since made the difficult choice to have 2021 commencement ceremonies take place virtually. This is the second year in a row that LMU is opting for an online commencement, with the second promise to the 2021 graduating class that an in-person celebration will occur as soon as conditions get better. However, with the release of multiple COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and rapidly dropping case numbers in L.A. County, is this virtual move still the right decision? Assistant opinion editor Cristobal Spielmann and staff writer Caroline Thoms go head-to-head on the virtual commencement.

While we should be happy that there's so much relative good news coming out regarding what is hopefully the death throes of the pandemic, we should also remember that it's still only the beginning of the end. As I've repeatedly written for the Loyolan, no one can predict when we can safely return to campus without the fear of a University-originating outbreak. There are still so many cases, and so many lives lost per week from this plague in L.A. County alone. Just today, in fact, the U.S. passed half a million COVID-19 deaths, more in cumulative deaths than any other country on the planet.

Relative normalcy isn't going to be a thing for a very long time, and it might not be ever again, living in a post-COVID-19 reality.

I understand that some are angry that the end of their college years will not end in a massive celebration, at least not yet, but many interviewed by the Loyolan have also stated that they're still ready to celebrate the accomplishments made during their time at the University in any way possible. This isn't a cancellation so much as an adjustment, with the promise that a future celebration will be fulfilled.

Admittedly, I don't think that my commencement will be in-person by 2022, or at least that it will be heavily masked and socially-distanced. I don't say this as a cynic, but as someone who can't predict the future and doesn't want to; I would have spent the first two months of 2020 very differently had I known what was ahead. The less we invest in the ideal conditions of what the future should look like and more in determining the best path for ourselves that is resilient to changes like COVID-19, the better our future is going to be.

This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a junior environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Email comments to Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like the Loyolan on Facebook.

Commencement is the victory lap of a college student's academic journey. A celebration of their hard work whilst surrounded by the ones who love and support their academic accomplishment. For students who do not continue onto graduate school, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A virtual commencement takes away the personal and intimate nature of a collegiate commencement.

Students are already fatigued by countless hours of staring at a screen for class, thus a virtual commencement can feel like any old day, instead of our special day of celebration. The New York Times interviewed college students last spring on their feelings about a virtual commencement. 2020 Vassar graduate Mary Retta explains, “as commencement day approached, I found myself thinking of a Zoom graduation as a creepy, post-apocalyptic exercise on bad days and as a corny, semi-pointless ritual on good ones.”

We are currently in a pandemic, thus a normal commencement ceremony is not a safe or smart option, but that doesn't mean that an in-person celebration must stop all together. Instead, I propose we get inventive and utilize the temperate weather and large open spaces LMU has to offer. Instead of one day of commencement, I propose two weeks of commencement; each college has one to two days, depending on the student population, with a staggered and socially distanced ceremony. In addition, we should continue to provide a virtual option for those who do not feel safe being on campus with the in-person option.

I propose each student within their prospective college is given a day and a time. Each time slot would be no more than 25 students, with each wearing two masks and spaced six feet apart. For family members, students are only allowed to bring their parents and/or guardians and they must also sit six feet apart with double masks. The virtual aspect of the event provides access to additional friends and family as well as limiting the number of people at each time slot. LMU could allow a 45-minute window to sanitize between each time slot and require all participants to return to their respective homes to continue their celebrations once their time slot has ended.

I acknowledge that right now COVID-19 cases are still prevalent in the U.S., but commencement is still a few months away. Ideally by the time commencement rolls around, many of us will have been vaccinated, but alas that seems naïve to believe. In a perfect world, the vaccine would be distributed at a much faster and effective pace, but that is not the current case. We must also consider the cost of hosting a weeklong event as well as the additional risk of transportation for out-of-state families. Although I believe an in-person commencement is something special and intimate, it is more important to stay healthy and safe, thus we need to be willing to adapt to our current situation.

This is the opinion of Caroline Thoms, a sophomore English major from Chicago. Email comments to Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like the Loyolan on Facebook.

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