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  • Writer's picture The Vindicator

Commencement vs. Corona

Written by Tyisha Blade // Illustrated by Alexia Carcelli

COVID-19 and its impact on the CSU society

Annually, graduating classes of students celebrate their academic accomplishments with a ceremony that embraces the senior student body. Commencement, a ceremony in which diplomas or degrees are conferred on graduates include family members, friends, advisors, teachers, professors and distinguished guests with one common goal: to honor the years of work students have dedicated to academia. For the 2020 graduates this ritual came to an abrupt halt with the introduction of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus. This and other events and establishments have been affected by the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new virus. It spreads through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some individuals may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. Though most people are able to recover from the virus, WHO reports that older people, and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness. As of March 2020, no known vaccines or treatments have been discovered and the virus is a detriment to the global society. Ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments have been announced and WHO reports that the best practices are proper hand washing, use of alcohol-based disinfectants and avoiding touching your face. Masks should be worn if you have become ill due to the virus or are caring for someone that is ill. To date, the virus has infected over 1.5 million people globally. Just under 5,000 of those cases have been reported in Ohio.

“These are the times where we count our blessings and think about those most in need. These are the times where we find out who we really are and what drives us.” -President Harlan Sands

With the worldwide spread of the virus, authority figures such as Gov. Mike Dewine have taken measures to slow down and ultimately halt the spread of the virus. Measures such as banning in-person dining at restaurants and bars (establishments have been limited to take out and online orders only), implementing a stay at home order, delaying in-person voting for the primary elections, banning mass gatherings and suspending in-person academic classes are just a few attempts made by the Ohio governor to combat the virus. Mass gatherings, according to, are defined as “any event or convening that brings together 100 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.” This includes--yes, you guessed it--commencement ceremonies.

President Sands and the staff at Cleveland State University took immediate action when acknowledging the importance of the health of the students, faculty and staff of the Cleveland State and surrounding population. Initially, in-person classes were replaced with online instruction until April 10, with classes resuming April 13. After further investigation of the Coronavirus and a positive testing of women’s basketball coach Chris Kielsmeier, online instruction was extended to May 8 and commencement ceremonies were postponed. Will Dube, Cleveland State’s director of communications and media relations was diligent in keeping the Cleveland State and local media informed with 24-hour updates via email. “We are working very closely with state, local, and community health officials to identify and notify those that have been in close contact with Coach Kielsmeier. Per established protocol, these individuals are being asked to self-isolate according to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC protocols for COVID-19. We have also notified Horizon League officials and others where potential for close contact may have been possible,” Dube said in a recent news release.

Other measures such as providing laptops and hotspots for internet access were offered to ensure that students are able to successfully interact and complete online instruction. Cleveland Federal Reserve donated 300 gently used laptops to the university, and, in addition to Cleveland State’s laptops, students in need were able to receive laptops to continue course work. Cleveland State’s Counseling Center offered free mental health services to students available online or by phone and a new virtual drop-in group called, Mindful Coping - Supporting each other during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Also, the course withdrawal date for the spring semester was pushed back to Friday, April 24 and students were offered the option of using the pass/fail grading system. The community was urged to practice social distancing. President Sands began holding virtual Town Hall meetings via Zoom (a web-based video conferencing tool that allows users to meet online, with or without video) on Friday, March 20 where he discusses issues impacting students, faculty and staff including the transition to remote learning, and the university’s response to COVID-19 to ensure the health and safety of the community. “These are the times where we pull together in our community and our CSU family shows its true colors as this pandemic unfolds,” Sands said during the first virtual town hall meeting. “These are the times where we count our blessings and think about those most in need. These are the times where we find out who we really are and what drives us.” The video can be seen here. President Sands initiated refunds for parking, dining and dorms. He encourages students to ask advisors for help during this time.

As of May 8, the students of the 2020 graduating class will have completed their degree requirements, a major accomplishment. Nothing and no one can take that away from us, not even a global pandemic.

Understanding completely the importance of controlling the spread, I, along with the rest of the graduating class, had no choice but to comply with the needs of the community. With the safety and health of the Cleveland State community being top priority during the Coronavirus crisis, it is notable that the university has acted responsibly and is conscientious of the need to still honor its graduating class. As a current graduating senior, I was, however, devastated to find out the commencement event would not be taking place on May 9. These ceremonies embody the summary of events that each graduate emcompasses over the span of their collegiate career. The university will acknowledge the graduating class on May 9, with plans of a later commencement date.

My journey at Cleveland State began Spring 2017 as a transfer student from Lakeland Community College. I transitioned and grew to love my time at the university. With all the many lessons and hardships I endured, I recall periodic feelings of doubt and uncertainty. One motivational component was the vision walking across the stage. Even with new practices of social distancing, one thing the Coronavirus can not stop is completion. As of May 8, the students of the 2020 graduating class will have completed their degree requirements, a major accomplishment. Nothing and no one can take that away from us, not even a global pandemic. While commencement may be on hold, we will still become graduates of Cleveland State University.

Congratulations class of 2020.


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