A drama student at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln has written an open letter and launched a petition after the frustrating cancellation of this year’s face-to-face cathedral graduation ceremonies.
In an email to students seen by The Lincolnite, the university stated that the Vice Chancellor ‘weighed up all the evidence and the risks involved’, and based on the outcome of the Health Secretary’s recent statement took the decision to change their graduation plans.
Bobbie Brader, 21, does not think this is acceptable and she has written an open letter, which she will hand in to her university this week.
In the letter, the student speaks out of her disappointment that students nationally have been “marginalised due to the global health crisis” and criticised “lack of communication and reassurance”. She also questioned “why now, when restrictions are ending, and cases are much lower than before, is the university worried about our health and risks we may face under the university?”
While airing her frustration at the situation, Bobbie also pointed out that “we are not causing a fuss due to hatred of the university, but doing so as we feel let down and unaccounted for”.
Bobbie also launched a petition via change.org, which has so far been signed by over 900 people in an attempt to convince the university to change its mind.
She told The Lincolnite: “I really do not think this is acceptable or fair on us as students. There has been countless talks from the government reassuring July 19 will go ahead. Students have paid £9,000+ a year, worked extremely hard during the pandemic to get through and come out with a good grade, with a promised graduation keeping us all positive.
“Now three weeks before it is meant to happen, they have made the unfair decision to do it online, despite them hosting multiple SU events and sporting events at the university, they will not hold a graduation.
“The university are still making us pay for gowns and hats, as well as our own expenses of dresses etc, which again, is unfair considering the majority will be sat in their rooms or living rooms watching a graduation.
“I’m extremely disappointed as I’ve been working hard for three years, we don’t even have an option like last year’s graduates to have it moved later on in the year.
“A lot of people have not even received their grade yet and we are given a week to get a refund on everything, to which the phone lines and website is jam-packed with people trying to get a refund.
“We’ve been stuck with an online graduation which what are we meant to do there? Walk across the screen and shake hands with the camera? There are plenty of ways, as a small university, that we could hold it outside, especially as the university has access to at least one big cinema screen.
“The event could be live-streamed outside so only the students are in the cathedral. It could be held outside on campus. There are plenty of ways that it could’ve been done, yet the only incentive I see for moving the graduation online is to save money.”
Another student called Bethany, who wished to keep her surname anonymous, was also left frustrated but already has plans for a garden party with her family instead.
She said: “I was quite disappointed, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a year after it being postponed twice.
“I’m so grateful for BGU for trying to let it go ahead as I know a lot of my other friends at other universities had their cancelled last year all together so they didn’t get anything, or just a virtual one.
“I really appreciate BGU still trying till the last second to sort it but after the news on Monday I really thought it would go ahead as the road map was still planned for the 19th which is the day of my graduation.
“Especially when you can have indoor performances of up to 1000 people, and stadiums full, I’m happy to wear a mask even on stage and do an air handshake or whatever when receiving my degree. Most people are vaccinated and people can get lateral flow tests before hand for free from the NHS so I wish they put something in place like proof of a negative test or something for it to go ahead.”
A spokesperson for Bishop Grosseteste University previously said: “We have to put the safety of all those involved in the ceremonies first, this includes students, staff and our wider local community.
“We have investigated all alternative options to enable us to run an in-person event. Unfortunately, graduation ceremonies have not, as yet, been granted the same pilot status as sporting events and music festivals.
“Additionally, there are limited windows in the year when the Cathedral is available, particularly for multiple days in a row as graduation requires. Similarly, running a solely outdoor event is not possible due to the potential for wet weather.
“We will be liaising with the Students’ Union throughout the process and are fully aware of the desire of students to have an in-person celebration. It is for this reason that the university has committed to running a free-of-charge event for all students who have been disappointed by this decision. The format of the event has yet to be decided but will be designed in conjunction with the Students’ Union.
“Although this is not the form of ceremony that any of us would have originally chosen, this will give our students the opportunity to celebrate their achievements with friends and family safely.”
Students were also advised to log into their account by 11.30pm on July 4 under the existing customer section of the Ede and Ravenscroft website. This would allow them to cancel orders and obtain a full refund for their gown hire should they wish to do so.