Over spring break, Westmont President Gayle Beebe informed the Class of 2021 that the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health has approved Westmont’s plans for a limited, in-person commencement ceremony this May.
While this approval is a big win for Westmont, the administration is unsure of who will be allowed to attend. Dr. Beebe wrote, “For safety reasons, the county officials are hesitant to allow us to conduct a ceremony with so many non-campus guests present.” However, the health department will revisit the issue in April, when hopefully a clearer trajectory for the end of the pandemic will be available.
Members of the Class of 2021 have expressed their excitement at Westmont’s ability to have an in-person commencement. Lina Reid said, “Having an in-person commencement would be very honoring of the strain that’s been placed on this class. It’s been a lot, so it would be amazing to have the opportunity to commemorate our class and all that we’ve been through.”
Yet the possibility of having a commencement ceremony without family or friends in attendance looms. Reid commented, “We are blessed to even be on campus, let alone to have an in-person commencement, but it would be far more special to have outside guests and our families at the ceremony as a capstone for our Westmont experience.”
The Class of 2021 is not the only class whose commencement plans have been affected by COVID-19. Last year’s seniors left campus in the spring without any commencement. In addition to announcing plans for the Class of 2021, Dr. Beebe proposed options for the Class of 2020 to belatedly celebrate their graduation.
After announcing that an in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 will not be allowed by the Department of Public Health, Dr. Beebe proposed alternatives that the recent graduates may vote on. “We want to offer the following options, recognizing that none of them are the same or as powerful as a face to face ceremony at the normal end of your college career,” Dr. Beebe wrote in condolence.
Options for the Class of 2020 include a drive-through ceremony held on Westmont’s campus with contributions from Westmont’s faculty and staff, a special one-year reunion during Homecoming weekend during the upcoming school year, or a five-year reunion during Homecoming weekend in 2025.
By presenting a number of options for celebrating the Class of 2020, Westmont has shown its commitment to celebrating and honoring each class for completing their time at the college.