Obies Supporting Obies: Students, Parents Look Forward to Celebrating Graduates


Madison Olsen

While graduating fourth-years are grateful for their in-person Commencement, many students’ family members will still be attending remotely because of pandemic restrictions and ticket limits.

Without a Mudd Center womb chair to curl up and write in or mid-week Splitchers at the ’Sco to attend, senior year has felt different for the class of 2021. But after a year of navigating college in a pandemic, graduating students get to celebrate one simple victory: on May 14, students will celebrate an in-person Commencement.

“I really didn’t think it was going to be possible to have an in-person celebration,” College fourth-year Daniel Fleischer said. “So when the College announced that we would have this modified version, I was super pumped.” 

The graduation will take place on Bailey Field and will be split by last name into two ceremonies, one at 9 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. Students and parents alike were happily surprised by the news of this in-person celebration.

College fourth-year Anna McLean and her parents are just a few of the many who are looking forward to an in-person event. 

“My mom had pretty much been almost crying on the phone every time it came up for the last semester,” McLean said. “After the announcement, my mother called me and went, ‘Are you serious? Are you serious? Oh my god, I’m so excited.’ Probably less than 15 minutes after that she texted me that she got a room for her and my father to come for that weekend. She is thrilled, my dad is thrilled — they’re both really excited to come.”

Each student is allotted only two tickets for guests this year. For some, this means prioritizing the closest two family members, while other family members like siblings and grandparents will have to watch via livestream. Fleischer’s brother will not be able to watch him graduate in person due to the ticket restriction. 

“I really wanted him to see it and share what the last four years have been like with him,” Fleischer said. “And that’s not really gonna happen.” 

Many students are facing difficult decisions about which family members can come watch them cross the stage. As a response, College fourth-year and Student Senate Chair Henry Hicks and College fourth-year and Vice-Chair Jasmine Mitchell created a spreadsheet to help students give and receive extra tickets. If students have any tickets they are not going to use, they can put them in the spreadsheet for someone who needs additional tickets. However, while many students have posted requesting extra tickets, few have offered up their tickets, which means many members of students’ families will not be able to attend Commencement. 

After hearing about extra tickets, College fourth-year Isabelle Leavy realized that some students were not expecting to have any family members at their graduation.

“I was realizing that if people did have extras, that meant that they didn’t have folks visiting them,” Leavy said. “I realized that there’s probably going to be people that wouldn’t have any familial support energy at graduation.” 

Leavy reached out to her mother, who will be attending the ceremony, about the situation for the class of 2021 and their families. Her parents offered their support for any students who need someone to cheer them on. 

“She was like, ‘Well, why don’t you just post that?’” Leavy said. “‘Me and dad will be surrogate parents for anyone that needs them.’” 

Leavy then made a post to the Oberlin 2021 Facebook page relaying her mom’s offer. 

“If anyone doesn’t have parents (etc.) to come to their graduation, you can use mine!” Leavy wrote. “They will tell you they are proud of you and are vaxxed, so they can hug you and pat you on the head if you need it.”

For many guardians and supporters, traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic is simply not feasible. Moreover, the two-ticket limit means that even many of those who can travel will not be able to attend the ceremony. However, Oberlin’s student camaraderie has always been prominent and perseveres despite changes. Graduating students can count on fellow students, faculty, and the Oberlin community to cheer for them all on May 14. 

“I’m looking forward to watching everyone walk across the stage,” McLean said. “Especially my friends who I am very proud of and many of whom have worked so hard to graduate.”