Florida Southern College has cancelled its December commencement ceremony and adjusted its spring semester dates amid the continued uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The college has made the difficult decision to forgo an in-person December commencement ceremony to continue to prioritize the health of our community,” a Sept. 28 email to students stated. “We are extending an invitation to the December graduating seniors, as well as those from last May, to participate in the first in-person ceremony we can host once conditions allow.”
Kimberlee Knight, a senior graduating in December, said the move is understandable.
“I think it’s the right choice, to delay an in-person graduation, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing,” said Knight, who is taking her final Florida Southern courses remotely this semester from Ocala. “I already said my goodbyes to the campus and had my emotional moment when I gathered all my things and I’m already a few hundred miles away.”
Dominic Mottola is a senior communications major who will also be graduating in December. With all of the changes for the fall semester, Mottola became a remote student, making the transition from Florida Southern to Cincinnati easier.
“Once all this started, I was never really planning to come back for an in-person graduation,” Mottola said. “I’ll still be with my close friends and family, which is really what matters.”
The college is arranging for graduating seniors to take formal photos on campus, with more details promised to come at a later date.
“While I’m a sentimental person, it doesn’t make sense to spend money traveling, buying the getup, and paying to spend the night in the area just so that I can get handed a fake diploma that I already have hung up in my home,” Knight said in response to if she would attend a postponed graduation ceremony.
Preliminary decisions have been made regarding the spring 2021 semester. An extended winter break with a later start date of Jan. 25 has been finalized on the school’s academic calendar. Florida Southern is also cancelling the 2021 spring break as a precaution, following the format of many other higher education institutions, as explained in Inside Higher Ed. May commencement is still tentatively scheduled for May 15.
“An overall decision about maintaining a low-density model has not been made [for the spring semester],” the email to students read. “However, based on the feedback we have already received, the college will provide students the option to self-select remote or commuter status for the spring.”
During the weeks prior to students’ anticipated return at the beginning of the current fall semester, Florida Southern College sent out an email stating that only certain groups of students would be allowed to live in on-campus residences and attend in-person classes, per the FSCares plan. The rest of the student body was left to find alternate places of residence and attend classes virtually.
After backlash from students, parents and community members about the late notice of decisions about the fall 2020 semester, Florida Southern has announced that their final decisions about what students will be allowed back on campus, campus protocols and class structures will be released “no later than October 26” for the upcoming semester.
FSC continues to update students about new developments of COVID-19 cases on campus through a COVID Dashboard, which presents periodic as well as cumulative reporting of the campus’ status.
If a student tests positive or comes in contact with someone who was positive, they are given the option to complete the duration of their quarantine off-campus or in the on-campus option. The Lake Morton Apartments, situated between Mosswood Road and Palmetto Street, are being used as designated student quarantine spaces this semester and will continue to be used as such during the spring.