The moment Tyler Little had to tell his family in Ohio they should not come to his Hancock College commencement was a "gut punch."
This year's commencement was postponed, college administrators announced Tuesday, after they received feedback showing a majority of students don't want a virtual ceremony.
More than 1,700 students graduating with degrees and 1,200 students earning a certificate were scheduled to be honored during the May 29 commencement for Hancock's 99th class.
Little, who worked closely with college administration in his role as president of the Associated Student Body Government (ASBG) to create opportunities for student feedback, said many students expressed the importance of having an in-person ceremony, even if it required pushing it farther into the future.
Like many students, however, Little felt the disappointment of knowing his family would not see him graduate as planned.
A committee made up of Hancock College administrators, faculty, staff and student representatives is recommending that the college continue to offer the majority of its classes remotely during the upcoming fall semester, the college announced Monday.
"They were kind of bummed, because I'm the first one in my family to graduate with a degree, so that would have been cool for them to see," Little said.
In the college's Tuesday announcement, President Dr. Kevin Walthers said the college will pursue a potential in-person ceremony in August.
"The students were loud and clear: a virtual celebration has limited appeal, and receiving a diploma in person is important to students, their family, and their community. So the challenge for Hancock is to create an experience that honors students' wishes while keeping everyone safe," Walthers said.
Heidi Mendiola, ASBG student trustee and a soon-to-be graduate studying administration of justice, said the commencement delay is disappointing but ultimately the best choice for students.
"We are watching what other colleges are doing nationwide for ideas that we can adapt here at Hancock," Walthers said in his announcement.
Other local community colleges have pursued various options for spring commencement, with Santa Barbara City College holding a virtual ceremony on May 8 and Cuesta College postponing its ceremony to Dec. 18.
Ronaldo Rendon, another soon-to-be Hancock graduate studying administration of justice and ASBG executive vice president, said an eventual in-person ceremony is much better than not having one at all.
Local high schools have also adjusted their graduation plans for seniors, scheduling virtual commencements and drive-through diploma receptions in place of in-person ceremonies.
On Monday, Hancock also announced the potential for classes to continue remotely in the fall, based on recommendations from a coalition of faculty, administrators, staff and student representatives.
The recommendations will be considered by additional governing bodies including the College Council and Academic Senate, and if approved, will be passed to the board of trustees for a final decision June 9.
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Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.
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