Summer graduates deserve better

Ayla Musharrif

Caps being thrown in the air, families and friends cheering for their loved ones, Longhorn spirit taking over the stadium — imagine sitting through that event, only to come back and finish the rest of your classes throughout the summer and receive your diploma in a plain envelope to mark the end of your college career. 

This year’s spring graduation ceremony during COVID-19 was underwhelming and disappointing for students. However, what students don’t realize is that summer graduates experience those feelings every year. 

Summer graduates don’t have their own commencement ceremony. They may be able to participate in the spring ceremony if they meet their college’s qualifications, or they can walk in the fall ceremony later that year. 

Even though summer graduates have the option to participate in either the spring or fall commencement ceremony, they should receive recognition once they officially finish all of their classes in the summer.

Doug Bolin, associate director of production for University Events, said that since there’s a smaller number of people that graduate in the summer, holding an in-person commencement for summer graduates would be challenging. 

“The institution’s priority is that if you have a ceremony, we want it to be meaningful, and we want it to really celebrate these students,” Bolin said. “If we have to adapt that either by including them in May or in December, then we’d rather do that than to do something that really wouldn’t represent the institution or their accomplishments.”

While an in-person commencement ceremony for summer graduates alone may not be possible, UT should recognize its graduates in other ways — something as small as a post on their graduation day, or a handwritten note from the dean would be nice. Or, each college could publish a slideshow recognizing all of their summer grads at the end of summer.

Public relations 2019 summer graduate Janelle Sosa walked the stage at the spring 2019 commencement ceremony.

“It’s kind of anticlimactic when your degree comes in the mail late August,” Sosa said. “It would be nice if they even posted something like, ‘Congrats to all our summer grads who finished their coursework today.’ That would be a nice recognition because UT doesn’t talk about summer grads.”

Sosa said the diploma is each student’s goal, so instead of mailing it in a plain envelope that says “Do not bend,” they could include a handwritten note from the dean or the president congratulating them on finishing school. 

“A personalized note from the president would be cool,” mechanical engineering summer 2020 graduate Henry Jiang said.

Many summer graduates appreciate the opportunity to participate in a physical commencement ceremony and have the experience of walking the stage while surrounded by friends and family. However, they still want to be recognized once they officially finish their college careers. 

UT needs to do more than just squeeze summer graduates in with the spring and fall ceremonies. Summer graduates deserve the same recognition as spring and fall graduates.

In previous years, UT has dismissed the notion of adding a summer graduation ceremony. However, pushing summer graduates into the spring and fall ceremonies is not enough. 

Now more than ever, the institution needs to recognize that summer graduates are a part of their community and deserve recognition for completing their college experience. 

Musharrif is a business and psychology sophomore from Houston, Texas.