Unprecedented. Unknown. Uncharted. Many of us are now living in an un-world: where all that we had planned on, all that we hoped for, all that we had counted on, is now called into question. I will not, because I cannot, begin to explain the pains of others, as we are all trying to take it one day at a time. I am not in a position where I can offer more than thanks and a debt; a debt of humanity. For too many this is all a loss. A loss of opportunity. A loss of financial wellbeing. A loss of living. I am more fortunate than many people my age. I have friends, at the age of 22, who had to file for unemployment. My own family members have taken a pay cut. And I am still more fortunate. I know where my next meal is coming from and there is a place for me to stay. Not everyone has that.
I must thank Drake University for their response. I have accepted that I will not be able to walk across the stage or celebrate my work over the last four years. I have accepted that I am paying rent for no reason. I am grateful to Drake for adjusting the curriculum to be credit/no credit based on the student’s choosing. I have only seen one institution, Simmons University in Boston, have a better approach. They are allowing students to see their final grades first and then decide which classes should be credit/no credit. This approach takes into account the uncertainty we face every day. The rules changed mid-game for us, and Drake responded accordingly. Drake also forgoed it’s yearly “All-In” and substituted to, instead, create a student emergency fund, for those who are in the most dire of situations.
The Class of 2020 never had a guarantee, but we do not have a school to go back to. We do not have jobs to go back to. We have to compete with others also looking for new jobs and have to deal with employers delaying and suspending jobs. We are not actively paying on our loans yet, come November, when little is being considered and, God willing, this crisis is over. Words of comfort will have to do for now.
I conducted a Google poll of May 2020 graduates, posted on the Drake Class of 2020 Facebook page and on the Times-Delphic’s social media. Over a third of respondents do not intend to attend the December graduation, with a senior saying, “I don’t feel it is fair to combine our ceremony with the December graduates, the May 2020 graduates should be recognized individually.” Around 20% plan on attending the December ceremony, while all others are unsure. 40% of May graduates intend on attending the virtual ceremony, but one senior responded: “I guess a virtual ceremony is something but it will never be the same or even close to an actual ceremony for graduates.”15% said they would not be, with all others unsure.
Seniors were also asked to answer “Do you believe the administration has handled the process of providing alternative opinions for graduation well?” Almost split evenly between yes and no, seniors were divided on this question. The resounding response in the open-ended recommendations asked for a delayed graduation in Summer, with one senior saying “If they have relays later this summer, they need to have the graduation then as well.” After seeing these responses and dealing with all of this myself, I have a few requests.
I call upon Drake University to make limited, but impactful changes. First, I call upon the powers that be to allow students to change their grades to credit/no credit at the end of the semester, when final grades are posted, as we are taking this crisis day by day. Second, offer free summer classes to the senior class to help them get off the ground, be it accounting, advertising, or coding. It is not fair to burden the professors further, and the last thing I really want to do is more coursework. These classes can and should be simplified, grade-free and automated. Third, create a Spring 2020 graduation ceremony for whenever the Drake Relays are rescheduled to. And my last request for right now, be as legally transparent as possible. In six months time, when employment statuses are being posted for the May graduates, tell the truthful number. Communicate to the entire public about issues, be it housing emails, graduation plans or employment opportunities. And post the results of the Drake University Pandemic Response survey so that the truth has light.
This article is not objective or written with journalistic integrity. I have a vested interest in this University and in the Class of 2020. What we do here and now will define our generation, graduating into unemployment. This article is by no means a manifesto to guide us through these times, nor is it an analytical critique of any one thing or person. This is simply a letter from someone who is going nowhere.