Confederation College has decided to postpone this year’s convocation ceremonies instead of cancelling them as originally planned after a swift and strong objection by students.

Students were alerted by email Monday afternoon about the decision to cancel the graduation ceremony in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has cancelled all social gatherings of more than five people across Ontario.

A petition was quickly started by students Michelle McDonald and Tasha Magyar asking the college to instead postpone the ceremony.

The email from the college to students stated they did not need to cross the stage at a ceremony to graduate.

“While this statement is true, there are hundreds of individual and unique stories that students are willing to share about why this news about getting their diplomas in the mail instead of walking across the stage has caused them and their families substantial emotional hardship,” said the student petition on change.org.

Confederation College president Kathleen Lynch heard the students’ concerns and just after 10 p.m. on Monday issued a statement on social media saying after receiving an overwhelming response from students on how important the convocation ceremonies are, the college would postpone the ceremonies to a later date.

“My apologies for any undue stress our original decision may have caused you,” said Lynch. “Please know that it was not meant to undermine your accomplishments, nor downplay the significance of this important event to you, your family and friends. Rather, it was made with consideration for the reality we’re in as a result of COVID-19, our uncertainty about how long it will be before we can safely host the events, and the advanced notice we need to prepare for the ceremonies.”

Lynch couldn’t say when the ceremonies would be held but that the college would make every attempt to offer convocation ceremonies for the 2020 graduating class in the future.

Graduating this year from the Native Child and Family Services program, McDonald said as a mature student, convocation was something important to her and her family.

“Many other students pulled together to get this decision overturned,” she said in an email to the Chronicle-Journal. “We as students are grateful at the decision to postpone to a later date rather than cancel and we hope that they follow through with their commitment to reschedule.”

McDonald said they also want to thank the college for listening to the students and hearing their voice on the matter.

“And to our professors who have taught us our advocacy skills over the time we have attended Confederation,” she said.

“Overall, we are absolutely grateful we will get to walk across a stage in our cap and gown and celebrate our hard work,” McDonald added.

Lakehead University announced late last week, it would also be postponing its convocation ceremonies, which are usually held in Late May or early June.

The university is hoping to reschedule the event to this fall.

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