That “walk across the stage” should be one of the most memorable moments in a student’s life.
Not so, however, for a number of people who attended Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and graduated during the pandemic.
Due to a ban on in-person ceremonies, the vast majority of those students, along with thousands more at other institutions, missed out on the hallowed convocation tradition, having to make do with virtual events instead.
Most universities in B.C. appear to have retrospectively afforded that special moment to the aforementioned groups.
But not, as of yet, KPU, which told the Richmond News it was “currently looking at options for a potential celebratory event later in the year.”
KPU student angry at lack of explanation
It’s something that doesn’t sit well with one of those affected KPU students, Richmond’s Jake Miller, who graduated in September of 2021 with a degree in biology and now actually works in the KPU lab as a student researcher.
Miller said he has spent months contacting almost every person at KPU “with even a passing connection to convocation and received nothing but guilt trips and blame placed on myself by the university.”
He wants to know why KPU is one of the few institutions which didn’t roll the pandemic graduates into this month’s convocation ceremonies and where the funds intended for such events during the pandemic went.
“Simply put, they are ignoring in-person convocation ceremonies for all graduating classes during the pandemic except, arbitrarily, October 2021 graduates and onwards,” added Miller.
“I've been given the run-around by the university multiple times, and was explicitly guilted about the desire to have a convocation for pandemic graduates and have been told that there is no money to hold such ceremonies.
“Assuming tuition and public funding aid in such ceremonies, citing a lack of funding is suspicious at best, considering tuition fees did not decrease during the pandemic and there are countless other universities in the province who have given Covid graduates a ceremony.”
Miller recognizes that, by going public, he’s risking his future at KPU as a researcher, but said that he’s “so disgusted” he had to speak out.
“My job is, in part, to raise the reputation of the university as a research focused university, but I cannot do that if students are treated so poorly and with disregard,” he said.
“Public institutions must be held accountable, or they no longer work for the public.”
KPU pondering "celebratory event" later in the year
Asked why it’s not holding catch-up convocations for pandemic graduates, KPU’s vice president of External Affairs, Randall Heidt, said he recognizes that “Graduating is an exhilarating time for students and we fully understand the desire to celebrate this major personal achievement.
“We hosted virtual convocations during the pandemic when in-person events were not possible and are currently looking at options for a potential celebratory event later in the year for those who would still like to mark the occasion in-person.”
As for the funding for cancelled convocations during the pandemic, Heidt said that the “fees paid by students go towards multiple expenditures for the university and while some may contribute towards convocation, it doesn’t all go towards the costs.
“KPU conducted virtual convocation ceremonies during the pandemic, and incurred costs in an attempt to make this memorable as an event given the circumstances.
“In addition to costs associated with filming and hosting convocation online, the university mailed individual convocation boxes with cap, tassel, medal, certificate folio, alumni magazine and pen to students.”
Asked what a “celebratory event” looks like, Heidt stated that “as KPU is still looking at the options for a potential event later in the year, it is too early to define what form that event will take.”
Miller says he still has the box KPU sent to him after he graduated and in no way is it “equal to a convocation in any capacity, because those things were given to graduates this past week who also received a full in-person ceremony.”