University says no to in-person graduation, so parents and students are planning their own

by Peter Heck · Mar 11th, 2021 10:18 am

Last Updated Mar 12th, 2021 at 10:30 am

The University of Tampa's decision to hold a virtual May commencement ceremony did not sit well with parents or students who have decided to hold their own in-person event.

Blaming the "uncertainty" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, university officials notified students in late February of its decision to cancel its in-person graduation again this year. In their statement, administrators claimed they "could not realistically host a safe" event with any substantial group of people.

Calling that decision "devastating," students and parents disagreed with the school, pointing to the city of Tampa's own successful hosting of the Super Bowl as evidence that public gatherings could be held without contributing to the spread of coronavirus.

"My son said to me, 'Mom, at least I will always remember the boat parade. I won't remember my graduation because I didn't have one,'" Jeanne Diaz, parent of a Tampa senior, said before imploring, "Just let these kids have something. These kids have worked so hard."

The school was unmoved by the petitions and remonstrances, so parents took matters into their own hands. The group has started a GoFundMe to help pay for a venue and assist with live-streaming costs.

The university said it is aware of the parents' plans but caution they "are unable to ensure that this independent event follows the Spartan Shield Health Safety Plan." Based on current response in the community, it appears most are unfazed by the school's warnings.

It wasn't immediately clear if the parent-coordinated graduation will be held in competition with the school's virtual ceremony or conducted at a different time.


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