Soon-to-be graduates from Earlham College organized an early commencement ceremony on Friday, March 13, following an announcement to suspend in-person classes on campus as a result of ongoing concerns related to the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus.
“After we heard the news that our school would be shutting down for the rest of the semester, there was kind of a whole level of somberness,” said Vi Tran, a global management major from Oak Park, Illinois. “Something that really helped me focus on getting through that was to plan for our graduation, because the likelihood that all of us would be back for graduation was really low.”
Earlham announced on Thursday, March 12, that face-to-face classes will be suspended at the end of regularly scheduled activities today. All campus events, including athletics, and college-sponsored student travel have been canceled.
Earlham begins spring break on Monday, March 17. Faculty will begin delivering coursework online to students no later than Wednesday, March 25.
“Yesterday I made the hardest decision of my professional career and that was to turn Earlham to online learning-only for the remainder of the year and to cancel the athletic contests and events scheduled in the spring semester,” Earlham President Anne Houtman said. “That was very painful, yet nothing for me compared to what it meant for our seniors and for our athletes, and really every single student who had to scramble and find out where they should go from here and worry about how they were going to get their learning done.
“Seniors took lemons and made lemonade by deciding to hold a graduation ceremony for themselves,” she said. “I’m so honored that they invited me to be a part of it. I’m so very proud of them; they are showing that amazing Earlham spirit that I see here every single day.”
The impromptu ceremony took place at Druley Performance Gymnasium in the Athletics and Wellness Center. Original poetry, music, student stories, faculty reflections, and a conferring of premature degrees, was included in the hour-long event.
A reception and open-mic event followed in the College’s Co-Lab, a space on campus where students and faculty collaborate on new ideas and projects.