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Students lament loss of in-person ceremony as spring 2021 convocation moves online for second consecutive year

Six other Ontario universities make similar announcements due to COVID-19
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Convocation Hall. MASHAL KHAN/THE VARSITY
Convocation Hall. MASHAL KHAN/THE VARSITY

U of T has announced that the spring 2021 convocation ceremonies will not be held in person due to health and safety concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a virtual convocation ceremony will take place on June 23 at 12:00 pm. 

This is the second year in a row that in-person convocation ceremonies have been moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. U of T had previously said that spring 2020 graduates would not be able to attend a later convocation ceremony. No further details are available so far about how convocation will be held or if there will be a postponed in-person component. 

The change comes as U of T has indicated that the summer semester will likely take place predominantly online, and as lockdown and travel restrictions in Ontario have grown increasingly strict over the past month.

Six other postsecondary institutions in the GTA announced that they would not be holding in-person convocations due to COVID-19 at the same time, including Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, Ryerson University, Sheridan College, and Seneca College.

Following this announcement, students took to social media to express their sadness at having such a significant milestone interrupted by the pandemic. The Varsity talked to two U of T students who are set to graduate in June.

Khushee Luhar is a biology specialist and psychology major who is completing her final semester. 

“I knew it was coming, so it wasnʼt surprising,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity. She agreed with the decision to move convocation online to prioritize health and safety, but she added that it’s “a disheartening feeling knowing you won’t get to have a traditional graduation experience, especially after putting in so much work the past 4 years.” 

Luhar feels a sense of loss for the photos and memories she would have had from the milestone. “It’s just a memory we won’t ever get to have so it did kind of ruin the spirit of graduating,” she wrote. 

Francesca Herrera, another student graduating in June, is completing a major in sociocultural anthropology and minors in sociology and french, and feels similarly to Luhar, writing that she was disappointed but not surprised by the announcement. She feels that the university could have handled the situation differently, noting that other universities have promised in-person ceremonies later on. 

Herrera has looked forward to convocation since she started her education at U of T, writing that she was mainly excited about “the idea of having my family come to Toronto from back home (Lima, Peru) to watch me walk the stage and receive my diploma.” 

Editor’s note (February 7): This article has been updated to include comment from graduating students.