Spring 2020 Commencement Canceled Column Art

It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. 

Nothing comes as a surprise anymore. If there is one thing that a worldwide crisis like this has shown, it’s that so much of what we think is our right is merely just a privilege. 

On Tuesday, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln officially canceled the spring 2020 commencement ceremonies. Numerous institutions across the country have already done the same, and this was something that was assumed to be a foregone conclusion by many students after Chancellor Ronnie Green announced the transition to online classes three weeks ago.

The cancellation is another responsible decision that is both understandable and disappointing to those affected. Years of hard work by so many won’t get recognized in the traditional sense, but that’s the type of sacrifice most of us will have to make at some point during this ordeal.

Regardless, it’s almost incomprehensible how fast regular life has changed. This is all only temporary, but for UNL students and others, the impact will last much longer. 

Summer employment opportunities are uncertain at the moment for some. For others, entire futures just became murky from the changes we are going through. On a smaller scale, life is just as complicated. 

Most college students are creatures of habits, both good and bad. And most of those habits are dependent on other people or the university itself. Classes, workouts, social events and extracurricular activities are all gone for at least a few months. For many, it’s going to be challenging to build new routines.

Given the situation at hand, those are fairly inconsequential matters to what other people are facing. Yet it can still be hard to cope with, and that’s okay. Going out into large crowds could have grave consequences at the moment, but being disappointed by this situation while abiding by the new guidelines does not.

The spring 2020 graduating class, myself included, seems to be taking this change the hardest. Years worth of work will end unceremoniously. First-generation graduates, student-athletes and most students, in general, might not get closure or personal recognition for their efforts over the past three to eight years.

If life were a collection of short stories, this one would be ending ambiguously without the satisfying and expected conclusion.

Again, to the general population, that doesn’t seem important. But graduation creates lifelong memories for families, including mine. I still think about my brother’s graduation five years ago. 

Graduations aren’t usually memorable because of the ceremony itself. They’re memorable because of who we experience them with. In the case of my brother’s graduation, it was because of my grandfather.

Four months prior, he fell in his home and was in critical condition. A long road to any sort of recovery laid ahead. For him to have any sort of normal life again would require drastic life changes from both him and the rest of my family. 

My brother’s graduation was in Montana, and for him to be able to see it in person, he would have had to be in stable condition again. My brother and I were his only grandchildren, and he wanted nothing more than to see at least one of us graduate from college.

With that in mind, he asked his doctor for advice on how he could recover in time to be able to travel to it, and my parents dropped everything in their lives to help care for him.

He made enough of a recovery to be there with the rest of us, and our family pictures following graduation were the last of us all together. It was a special moment that our family will remember for the rest of our lives, and it made months of stress and hard work worth it. 

Over the next several months, many of those moments will be taken away. Graduations, weddings and congregations in general are being postponed for safety concerns. Special moments that we’ve looked forward to for most of our lives will not be what we had envisioned, and that can be a tough pill to swallow. 

Missing out on those moments with friends and family might sting, but it’s important to remember why we are doing this all. By making sacrifices in our own lives now, more of those moments will happen for future classes and generations, including our own.

I am thankful to still have the opportunity to earn a diploma this spring. Nearly all of us have family or ancestors who faced greater threats and dangers just for us to have an opportunity like this. 

It’s unfortunate some of them will not get to see the fruits of their labor celebrated in a traditional sense, but by being cautious now, more people who are at risk from COVID-19 will be around for future milestones despite this one being taken away.

This short story may not have the happiest ending, but there are a lot of empty pages left for us and it’s up to us to make the most of them.

With the NCAA Tournament canceled, this year’s college basketball stars won’t get to see their traditional “One Shining Moment” montage that ends every year’s national championship broadcast. In a similar manner, the class of 2020 will not get its own shining moment.

But life is more than just one shining moment. And for us, there are plenty more to come.

Matt Hardesty is a senior agronomy major. Reach him at opinion@dailynebraskan.com.