GSC discusses commencement options

April 15, 2020, 9:23 p.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) discussed plans to hold both a virtual and in-person commencement ceremony and introduced a resolution to help finance social events for families of graduate students during its meeting on Wednesday evening. 

The resolution, sponsored by fourth-year Ph.D. student in the School of Medicine Lawrence Bai and presented by Escondido Village Family Financial Officer Shaun Harris, requests funds from the GSC to cover the costs of graduate student programming for the 2020-21 school year. Events outlined in the resolution include movie nights and mini-golf tournaments for graduate students with teenage children, “playdates” for students with younger children and social events that graduate student parents can attend without their children. 

“It’s really nice to have people come together and be able to do fun activities with their kids like carving a pumpkin or going to a carnival,” Harris said. The GSC did not discuss or vote on the resolution due to time constraints. 

Associate Vice President for Campus Engagement Matthew Tiews also attended the meeting to provide the GSC with an update on commencement plans

“We are going to organize an in-person celebration,” Tiews said. “It will be whenever we can. We don’t really know what format will be possible at what time.” 

The University also plans to hold a virtual celebration in June. 

“We heard loud and clear from members of our community that they don’t want this to be a substitute for an in-person ceremony, so we’re planning something that is community-based and that will be an opportunity for students to submit videos of themselves reflecting upon what they’ve learned at Stanford, what they’re missing in the COVID situation, and what they’re hoping for the future,” Tiews said. 

Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages Ph.D. student Gabriela Badica said that many graduate students are hoping to celebrate through an in-person traditional ceremony. 

“People will tell you that graduate students don’t care about the ceremony, but that’s not true,” she said. “For international students, this is not a thing outside of America or maybe the English speaking world, so we want that special experience.” 

Tiews asked the GSC for ideas on how to design both ceremonies to give students the same experience they would have had if the COVID-19 pandemic was not affecting plans. 

“I would like to at least have a live stream of the provost or the president providing remarks,” said GSC social chair and second-year computer science master’s student Adam Keppler. “I think that’s really an important part that a lot of people look forward to — a final moment of closure where people can tune in together and hear a final address.” 

Keppler suggested adding a “special token” to packages mailed to graduating students with their diplomas, and fourth-year law and international policy student Julia Neuser said that adding “a few days of activities” leading up to commencement might provide students with more closure. 

Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) representative Justin Akers also provided the GSC with a tentative schedule for the housing lottery at the meeting. He announced that the lottery will open on April 27, with applications due on May 26. Deadlines for students with Office of Accessible Education (OAE) accommodations will be different, according to Akers. RD&E hopes to announce the results in June. 

“I want to put a little asterisk next to this,” Akers said. “This could change with circumstances around COVID-19 changing. We’re constantly as surprised as you are.”  

Contact Sarina Deb at sdeb7 ‘at’

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