FARMINGTON — The 374 graduates of the University of Maine at Farmington were notified last week that their Aug. 22 commencement ceremony has been postponed because of state coronavirus restrictions.

The email notice from UMF President Edward Serna on July 15 included a link to a survey asking students if they were open to graduating with the Class of 2021.

“You shouldn’t be able to say you’re postponing it because you don’t even know if May 2021 graduates are going to have a ceremony. No one knows,” Class President McKayla Marois said from Austin, Texas, during a video chat interview. “There’s no end in sight to COVID right now, unfortunately, we all wish that there was.”

McKayla Marois of Austin, Texas, president of the UMF Class of 2020, purchased plane tickets in June to attend the  commencement ceremony at the Farmington campus. She still plans to fly to Maine in August to visit her family, she said, but she will have to miss orientation to her graduate program to do so. McKayla Marois photo

UMF hosted a virtual commencement in May as a temporary celebration for graduates. That same month it announced that an in-person ceremony was to take place Aug. 22.

Marois bought plane tickets in June to attend, forcing her to skip her graduate school’s orientation at the University of Texas next month.

President Serna’s email attributed the CDC’s large gathering guidelines and recommendations as the university’s reasoning behind postponing graduation.

“Given the current regulations surrounding large group gatherings, the safety recommendations from civil authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and our commitment to keeping our students, their families, and the greater Farmington community safe, we do not feel it is our community’s best interest to hold an in-person event at this time,” Serna wrote.

Graduate Bradley Howes of Jay said he was looking forward to an in-person ceremony and did not quite understand the reasoning behind the cancellation.

“I get that they’re canceling the ceremony because they want to be safe, but at the same time, one week later, they’ve got 2,000 people showing up to move in and they’re not really concerned about that,” Howes said via a video chat interview. “It’s a double standard, it seems like.”

Hundreds of students will be moving into UMF’s residency dorms in the days leading up to the start of fall classes on Aug. 31.

Several graduates said they would prefer the university to be more realistic with their word choice and use the term cancel over postpone.

“I don’t think it’s realistic,” Faith Diaz of Washington state wrote in an email. “I think UMF and the UMS system is trying to do their best to prevent hurt feelings. But the reality of the situation is, Class of 2020 didn’t get a graduation. And we should have. The peers and professors amongst us were truly phenomenal. I wanted a graduation to thank them, to thank Amy Neswald, Misty Kruger, Jeff Thomson and many more. But the truth is, they already know how indebted I am to them.”

When Faith Diaz, left, returned to her family’s home in Washington state, her mother Amaryllis Diaz, right, surprised her daughter with a graduation celebration. Diaz said she would most likely not return to UMF for a graduation commencement at this point. Photo Courtesy of Faith Diaz

For graduate Darby Murnane, using the word postpone has set her up for continuous disappointment.

“When I left campus I was so hoping, very naively thinking, that we the United States would take this seriously and be careful and maybe we’d be able to come back in May and have our graduation ceremony, even if it was later in the month,” Murnane said during a video chat interview at her home in New Jersey. “And then I found out that it was moved to August and I’m pretty sure I said the words, ‘this can be pried out of my cold, dead hands.’”

While many graduates are uncertain as to whether they would return next May to participate in a ceremony with the Class of 2021, Howes said he would still attend the postponed commencement. Although, he did say that graduating with another class “diminishes” the experience. Instead, Howes would have like to have seen UMF host some type of drive-up commencement ceremony like many high schools across Maine have done.

Other graduates such as Marois, are ready for the possibility of a graduation ceremony to come to a close.

“If we’re not having an in-person ceremony and the budget for a ceremony is $8,000, mail everyone their cap and gown and do something virtual,” Marois said. “Don’t make people pay for their cap and gown when people can’t even find jobs right now.”

President Serna did not respond to the Franklin Journal’s questions regarding the postponed ceremony.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.