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2021 Commencement Changed in Response to Seniors

by Nicole Cortino

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On March 19, President Dr. Robert Gregerson sent a message to the student body stating that the graduation ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 1, in the Chambers Hall Gymnasium. There will be three ceremonies, the first at 10 a.m., the second at 1 p.m., and the third at 4 p.m., with the possibility of a fourth at 7 p.m. The ceremony may be extended into Sunday, May 2 if necessary.  

This was a change from the original commencement plans; on March 10, Dr. Gregerson originally stated that there would be two drive-through ceremonies on May 1 and 2.

This structure of the commencement is in response to a petition against the original graduation ceremony plans by Brandon Reitz, a senior biological sciences major. Over 320 students have signed the petition so far.

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Initially, Rietz expected an in-person ceremony because the Oakland and Bradford campuses, as well as surrounding high schools, were holding traditional graduations.

“Between the vaccines, and Pitt Main’s announcement of their graduation, I thought, ‘No way, if Pitt Main is doing it, are we not,’ because they have double the number of students we have. There’s no way we can’t make it work,” Reitz said.

Reitz is happy with how Pitt-Greensburg reorganized the ceremony.

“I think they did a very good job of replanning,” he said. “I think having two cars for the drive-through made sense because you could bring a lot of people to the event, but I don’t like the idea of our graduation acting like a parade.”

Alyssa Bewszka, secondary education and English writing major, signed and promoted the petition. She agrees that a drive-through ceremony “feels more like a parade rather than a celebration of achievements.” 

Bewszka sent multiple emails and ideas to Dr. Gregerson in effort to have an outside, traditional ceremony. Dr. Gregerson responded that over the last several years there has been a pattern of bad weather, and therefore, an outside ceremony was not an option.

“He said I had a lot of really good ideas and was planning for the ceremony in consideration of them. I thought we were going to get a regular ceremony,” Bewszka said. “They sent out a poll giving us only two options: the drive-through or inside the gym. I felt like my ideas were completely dismissed.”

Reitz suggests that ceremonies be organized by disciplines or majors rather than in alphabetical order based on students’ names.

“That way, the biological science professors and faculty attend one, maybe two ceremonies, and then they are done. Same with criminal justice, and all the other majors. I also think President Gregerson said there will be a designated sanitizing team, so I’m hoping that helps the staff and faculty with the long day,” he said.

Reitz and Bewszka said they have received support from all the people who are in their lives, and their family members agree that there should be an in-person commencement.

“My main concern was having it in person. I am the first person, from both sides of my family, to go and graduate from college,” Reitz said. “It’s our reward for the past four years, going through all the debt, all the late-night studying, all the hard work we put in.”

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