Delaware Tech commencements to take place on the internet

As colleges determine what to do with graduation, Delaware Technical Community College is the latest to make a decision to go virtual.

“We really thought that it was in the best interest of our students and their families to go ahead and do this virtually, as we see cases rising in Delaware,” said Christine Gillan, a spokeswoman for the college. “We thought it would be good for everyone to celebrate, in the only way we can.”

Ms. Gillan said because it is unclear if students will be on campus in the fall, the college decided not to set a date for a postponed commencement.

“We didn’t set any arbitrary date for when we think that we’ll be able to have large gatherings again,” she said. “We will look for opportunities to celebrate with our class of 2020 graduates in the future if there’s an opportunity to do that.”

She said the college isn’t sure what a postponed gathering would look like, should that come to fruition.

“We’d love to celebrate their successes with them. But, for now, we thought this would be a bright spot for people to be able to participate,” she said.

DelTech’s ceremony will actually be composed of four graduation events, one for each campus, Ms. Gillan said.

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester will serve as the commencement speaker. Ms. Gillan said they will film her speech at one of the college’s sets, which will be created for this. They will separately pre-record the chaplain’s message, the president’s message, student speakers and put that together into one video.

“We’re going to be able to name every graduate online as we would if we were in person,” she said. “Every student will still be recognized.”

The videos will be released online at the dates originally scheduled for the in-person graduation. Dover’s will be Monday, May 11, 6 p.m.; Georgetown’s is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 6 p.m.; and Stanton and Wilmington’s will take place on Wednesday, May 13, 7 p.m.

Other spring events meant to honor graduates will continue online too. Through Facebook Live, Zoom and social media, the college plans to hold its graduation awards and other events.

“We’re doing a lot to reach students in a variety of ways so that they could still celebrate,” she said.

The decision to go virtual, however, and not announce a date for a postponed in-person graduation was met with frustration by students — and two petitions.

The petitions have garnered more than 1,300 signatures between them — a number that nearly amounts to the 1,800 students set to graduate.

Kasie Bell is among the members of the class of 2020 and has spearheaded the crusade to get an in-person ceremony. She posted one of the petitions on Change.org — which has accrued more than 1,000 signatures — and has reached out to news outlets across the state.

Ms. Bell, 37, explained that she went back to school when she was 35. High school, she said, wasn’t the best experience for her.

“This was different for me,” she said of DelTech. “I actually cared about my education and the people that I went to school with were really nice and helpful.”

She noted that she agrees that it is in the best interest to refrain from having a graduation now, but wants to see the school hold one later.

“People go to community colleges later on in life, or if they have families or work obligations, because it better suits their schedule,” she said. “We’re not just a bunch of young college kids that are selfish, that want to put everybody at risk for contracting the coronavirus. What we are simply asking is to postpone our ceremony so we can walk.”

Across the state, other universities have announced new commencement programming, with virtual ceremonies taking place at Wesley College and Delaware State University, with later physical commencement also planned. Wilmington University announced plans for a physical graduation in the fall. The University of Delaware asked students to weigh in through a survey.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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