Last week, our family got a surprising email: Cleveland State University, where our son is in his last semester, is actually having a live graduation ceremony. It will be held in two ceremonies (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) on May 15, at Progressive Field, which has a 35,041-seat capacity. With XXX graduates, social distancing is possible. Attendance at Indians games has been restricted to 30% capacity.
“This is such an exciting announcement for all of us, and it is only possible because of the great work we have done as a community to stick to our health protocols and give us the collective confidence we can do this safely,” said CSU President Harlan M. Sands.
The last three semesters have been tough for our son. He loves CSU. He loves the excitement of downtown Cleveland. I totally get it. I worked downtown for nearly two decades. I distinctly remember one night walking to the top level of the parking garage to go home and stopping dead in my tracks when I looked up after fumbling for my keys. The Cleveland skyline sparkled against the dark sky. The Terminal Tower was lit by a vibrant blue spotlight. The whole effect took my breath away. I think I actually said out loud “I love Cleveland” and “I love my perfect job in a perfect city.”
Dorky but true. And my son has inherited that same love. So he was devastated when his college adventure shrunk to our spare bedroom and his mother’s tiny wicker desk.
After the initial elation over thinking he will at least have a graduation ceremony, the doubt set in for both of us. Is this selfish? Wise? Can it be done safely? Will we have our vaccinations by mid-May?
I hope the “health protocols'' mentioned by Sands include masks and social distancing, despite potential loosening of mandates by Gov. Mike DeWine by May. Will we be too nervous to enjoy the moment? Can my already vaccinated sisters attend, like they did for our daughter? Is this whole thing stupid?
Other colleges and universities are struggling with the same issues. For example, the University of Florida is holding 14 different ceremonies spread out from April 29-May 3 for its nearly 10,000 candidates for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Social-distancing protocols and masks will be required.
It’s obvious that universities are struggling and trying to honor their graduates. We are grateful for CSU and its efforts.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate event to begin our pathway back to a ‘new normal,’ where we can celebrate in-person after a year in which the pandemic pushed us away from personal contact and social norms,” Sands wrote. “As far as details for the day, we must first and foremost ensure to follow all ‘SAFE at Progressive Field’ protocols that are currently in effect for bringing fans back into the ballpark; this will involve limiting guests and strict masking and physical distancing requirements.”
He ended with: “I can’t wait!”
Neither can we. But I am still worried about whether it’s the right thing. And regardless, we will be wearing masks and social distancing. It is the right thing to do.
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