Hampton University seniors frustrated about virtual commencement despite increased capacity limits | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Commencement season is quickly approaching, but many seniors at Hampton University are dealing with graduation frustrations.
The university is moving forward with plans for a virtual ceremony even though Gov. Ralph Northam recently increased capacity limits for graduations.
Students told 10 On Your Side they’re upset and heartbroken with this decision.
The university said under the current conditions, a safe option isn’t feasible.
Seniors in the class of 2021 said they’ll do anything to walk across the stage.
“We will get tested, we will check people’s temperatures, we will split up the days,” said senior Aniyah Oberlton. “We just want to have an in-person graduation. If we have to compromise and only have just the students.”
Last week, Northam announced outdoor graduation ceremonies could have up to 5,000 people or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is smaller. Students and parents said they’re frustrated after school officials decided to keep the ceremony virtual despite the changes.
“This would really lift the spirits of these students who have struggled and persevered through this pandemic,” said Kyona Oberlton, Aniyah’s mother.
Seniors have started a petition, contacted school officials and launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #lethamptonstudentsgraduate with hopes of getting the ceremony in-person.
10 On Your Side contacted the university which said it considered multiple options. In a statement, we’re told the number of graduates, one guest per senior and staff to run the event would’ve exceeded the capacity allowed at the football stadium.
The university also said despite all efforts, neither of the strategies developed would offer a safe ceremony that also met the detailed guidelines.
What’s supposed to be a time filled with excitement has now been replaced with disappointment.
“It’s really important to me because I’m a first-generation HBCU graduate,” said senior Wakeelah Peace-Bashir. “It means so much to me to actually walk across the stage and say ‘look, I did it for us.’”
The students aren’t giving up yet. They’re hopeful something might change.
“We are wholeheartedly prepared to do whatever it takes for us to get this graduation,” Aniyah said.
Regent University also recently announced it’s hosting a virtual ceremony. We’re waiting to hear back if those plans have changed since Northam’s announcement.
To read the full letter that went out to the Hampton University graduating class, click here.