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Final year University of Limerick students are campaigning to defer not digitize their 2020 graduation conferring ceremonies.

An online petition circulated on May 29th amongst the student population is just shy of its 2,500-landmark goal. The petition comes in response to an email circulated by the University on the same day, outlining that eligible students shall be conferred in absentia following the release of their final examination results from the Academic Council.

The 2020 UL graduation ceremonies were due to take place between Monday 24th August and Friday, 28th August. The decision arose as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, whereby the University must adhere to public health directives in the interest of the student body and widespread community as a whole. The final decision was sanctioned by the Academic Planning Group (APG), in which Professor Kirsten Mey made the following statement:

“We understand this is very disappointing news for the Class of 2020. The decision to cancel the conferring ceremonies was not one that UL made of its own volition but was dictated by the Government public health directives on the hosting of large events. We at the university are equally disappointed that we cannot celebrate this milestone in your lives with you and acknowledge your academic achievement and success.”

Recent acceleration of the government’s phased reopening plan has called into question the University’s decision to digitally confer its soon to be graduates. A digitally delivered electronic parchment of accreditation does not sit well with students who feel they have been denied a sense of finality to the conclusion of their studies.

Final year pharmaceutical and industrial chemistry student from Ennis, Leah Ferrigan, expresses sentiments of ambiguity towards the final chapter of her time at college. “UL closed its doors very suddenly and not many of us got to say goodbye to our classmates from the last four years. A lot of students have been left paying rent off-campus, moving home where study space was not readily available and/or living environments were drastically affected by the pandemic. It was a very turbulent conclusion to our studies and having our graduation cancelled with no deferral was a very inconsiderate decision by UL.”

As compensation for the cancellation of the 2020 conferring ceremonies, the University of Limerick has conceded that a number of celebratory online events will be held throughout the summer in acknowledgement for the diligence and sacrifice of students coming to the end of their degree in such unprecedented times.

The general consensus amongst the graduating classes of 2020 is that the University has sidestepped a key issue with a frail and fainthearted attempt to satiate the wishes of its soon to be graduates, leading to a cohort of signatures fuelling as of yet, an unfinished fire.

Final year New Media and English student from Ennis, Elina Kovale, meditates on the future of the issue, “I am hopeful that UL will listen to the graduating class of 2020 and acknowledge the petition organised by students that has been circulating online. Nobody is pushing for the ceremony to happen now, we would just like to be able to have one when it is safe to do so. UL should acknowledge the graduating students who lost the final moments of the best years of their lives by reversing their decision”.

Similarly, Ms. Ferrigan offers a conclusive alternative of her own, “A very simple suggestion would be to spread the conferring ceremonies over a two week period or over a series of weekend ceremonies to allow for smaller numbers and greater ease in applying social distancing protocols. The ideal scenario is that we have our ceremony conferred to winter. It is the very least that could be done for the class of 2020.”

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