Ball State seniors reflect on cancellation of May commencement and abrupt end to school

<p>The Quad area in front of the David Owsley Museum of Art sits empty March 23, 2020. Spring commencement ceremonies have historically been held here, but due to COVID-19 precautions, the area will sit empty this May. <strong>Emily Wright, DN</strong></p>

The Quad area in front of the David Owsley Museum of Art sits empty March 23, 2020. Spring commencement ceremonies have historically been held here, but due to COVID-19 precautions, the area will sit empty this May. Emily Wright, DN

Anxious, nervous and frustrated — that’s how Gabriel Kinder described his feelings on the numerous changes implemented at the university and elsewhere.

“I guess what’s been a little upsetting for me is … everything just kind of ended abruptly,” the senior psychology major said. “I still expected to have six or seven more weeks here.”

Kinder is part of Ball State’s class of 2020, which had its May commencement ceremonies canceled amid COVID-19 concerns as the university tries to figure out alternative options.

“I’ve been here for four years. I’ve put in a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of money,” he said. “While I do understand the entire situation and everything that’s going on, it’s just very frustrating to have that kind of taken away from me and not be able to have that aspect there for my family and that kind of celebration.”

Kinder said he hopes it gets pushed back or delayed and would be upset if it doesn’t end up happening.

Laura Coleman, senior teaching major, said she is also disappointed to not have the May commencement ceremony for people to see the hard work she has put in over the past four years.

However, Coleman said she understands the concerns over having a large gathering during events like the commencement, adding “we don't want to make matters worse by having all those people together.”

While commencement is a concern for students like Coleman and Kinder, what they are more disheartened about is the abrupt end to their college experiences.


Ball State graduates, staff, faculty and families fill John E. Worthen Arena for winter commencement Dec. 14, 2019. During the ceremony, students received their diplomas from Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns as they walked across the stage  Charles Melton, DN


Coleman was working at Brookside Elementary School in Indianapolis, which had its last day of classes March 12. The school was supposed to be closed until April before Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered all K-12 schools to be closed until May 1.

While she never saw the school’s students react to the shutdown, as they had already been sent home, she did see Brookside’s faculty react to the closure.

“It was kind of a little bit more abrupt than what they had thought,” she said. “Our teachers were a little bit more panicked because they didn't have that Friday to use in order to distribute more packets and more resources for those kids to take home. So, there was a lot of panic and kind of disorganization and working together to try to get everything ready to go.”

Coleman said she will not be participating in any online instruction for Brookside due to lack of resources in Indiana public schools.

While she doesn’t have any particular concerns about her education going forward, Coleman said, it was upsetting not being able to continue the relationships she had created with the students and faculty at Brookside.

She said she is still in contact with her teacher mentor at Brookside to see if she can help at all with classwork or food distribution at the school.

Kinder is the president of the Active Minds chapter at Ball State, a mental health and advocacy group. At his chapter’s last meeting March 12, he said, the students were “at a loss for words.” The seniors in his club were upset because “they just didn’t expect things just to be over in the blink of an eye.”

“They didn’t even know what to say,” he said. “A lot of them were very anxious and very scared and very stressed because there was so much uncertainty going on, and they didn’t know if they were going to have the right resources to help them through the rest of the semester.”

Almost all of Kinder’s friends have already left Ball State and Muncie for the semester. He said he only has two friends still around only because they live off campus.

“I was hoping to make some more memories before I go and do a little bit on the weekends with them, maybe travel a bit,” he said. “With this going on, I just kind of lost any of those last personal experiences and being able to say goodbye to all of them before everything ended and we moved on from college. It’s been kind of upsetting.”

Over the next couple weeks, Kinder said he had plans to wrap things up at his student organization, say goodbye to everyone, talk with some of his professors one last time and thank people for the opportunities they’ve given him — plans he is uncertain about ever being able to revisit.

“There’s a lot of things about saying goodbye and moving on that I’m not necessarily going to get closure to,” he said. “That closure that I don’t get with a bunch of the people I’m very close to here is what has bothered me the most with having to leave college as a senior early.”

Contact Charles Melton with comments at cwmelton@bsu.edu or on Twitter at Cmelton144. Contact Rohith Rao with comments at rprao@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @RaoReports.

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