USI publishes open letter calling on universities to to hold graduations in person

USI and a number of student union presidents around the country have written to HEI’s urging them to formulate plans for in person graduation ceremonies this autumn

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has published an open letter calling on universities to hold graduation ceremonies in person.

USI and a number of student union presidents are urging universities not to cancel in person graduation ceremonies this Autumn. They have also launched a social media campaign under the hahstag #GiveUsOurGrad. 

In the letter USI note that “it may not yet be in a position to commit to a format for this year’s graduation ceremonies” but they are calling on Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) “to be creative and not to cancel in-person graduations and move them online”.

“Students feel that the commitment and preparations to return to on-campus activity should include graduation ceremonies and events,” the letter continued.

“There is an expectation, under best practice student engagement and partnership, to communicate and consult with the students’ union when creating these plans.”

They have also noted that “these might not yet return to a pre-pandemic format”  but “in-person graduations are possible within the current public health guidelines” and these guidelines “may be eased further” by the time graduations are due to take place.

The letter also highlights that “graduations are hugely important to students and their families and that is the case more so than ever after the difficulties of the last 18 months”.

USI are urging HEI’s to factor the significant vaccine uptake among students into plans for graduations; “This year the public health landscape is very different due to the hard work of everyone, including students.”

USI President Clare Austick stated on Twitter that she believes “students deserve their one special day of celebration and recognition at the end of their college journey”.

“There is an expectation on HEIs to consult with student and staff reps to facilitate safe, in person graduations and look at all options possible or commit to a future date,” she continued.

USI Vice President for Campaigns Beth O’Reilly also spoke out on the issue on Twitter, saying that “after two years of sacrifice, students deserve one day of commemoration”.

Last week, Trinity became the first HEI to resume in person graduations. Over several days, groups of 60 students attended their graduation ceremonies in a marquee outdoors to keep within public health guidelines. 

Each event was permitted a total of 120 guests, with every guest required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test. 

A total of almost 1,000 students, who would normally have graduated in 2020, were due to attend these small-scale ceremonies between August 11 and August 20.

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.