Students disappointed Conestoga College won’t hold in-person convocation ceremonies

Conestoga College students are voicing their disappointment over the fact the college is opting for virtual convocation ceremonies again this year, unlike many other local schools.

The ceremonies at Conestoga College will be pre-recorded events with more than 6,000 students graduating.

“Frustration for sure. Disappointment as well,” said Dawson Santagato, an energy systems engineering technology student at Conestoga College.

“[It] almost feels like since other schools are doing this I don’t know if this is a cost saving measure. [It] feels like our opinions or feelings are not being taken into account when making this decision.”

Santagato said he worked hard to get where he is now, graduating at the top of his class. But he wishes the school would change its mind on the virtual ceremony.

“We are all being forced to go virtual. Even the ones that are comfortable with going in-person. [It] sort of feels like they are taking that opportunity away from us,” he said.

Conestoga College said the decision was made due to COVID-19 to keep the college community safe.

The college did not comment specifically on student concerns, but pointed to an online statement on its website that read in part:

“In-person convocation ceremonies, which often include more than 1,000 participants and guests, pose significant risk for virus transmission and spread."

Students argued that since their last semester was in-person, an in-person convocation is possible.

“If they are comfortable with learning in-person, I don’t see what the major differences between learning in-person and going to convocation,” said Santagato.

Scott Park, an electrical engineering technology student at the college said he was really looking forward to making his family proud.

“I keep talking about my high school one. My mom was in tears when I was walking across the aisle because she was so proud of what I did,” Park said.

WHAT ARE OTHER SCHOOLS DOING?

The University of Guelph hosted what it called a “grad tour” last year.

But this year, the University will be going fully in-person.

The same goes for Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

University of Waterloo staff said they expect about 15,000 students at convocation, as those from the classes of 2020 and 2021 are also allowed to join in.

“Convocation was a good reason why I wanted to keep our mask mandate in place on our campus,” said Nick Manning with the University of Waterloo.

Students at Conestoga College said they have been forced to plan smaller, private gatherings with their family and friends.