By K.J. ASKEW
After long deliberation, Barton college has decided to continue with it’s planning of providing the students with a commencement ceremony. However, it will be held at a later date.
Students were informed of the college’s commencement plans through a letter from the president of the college, Douglas Searcy: “Commencement will be postponed until the end of Fall Semester 2020. The date for the commencement ceremony will be announced in the upcoming weeks. Postponing the commencement does not impede students from graduating. All students who have applied for graduation and met graduation requirements will receive their Barton diplomas by mail at the end of the spring semester in May.”
The distribution of diplomas will be overseen by Barton College Registrar Sheila Milne. Milne and her colleagues will manage the distribution and communicate with students about it.
Dr. Gary Daynes, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs assures that the commencement proceeding was essential to Barton’s administration from the start.
“All of the faculty and staff responsible for parts of commencement came together a week ago and created three proposals for commencement. I then took those recommendations to the Senior Staff of the college. That group, led by the president, made a couple of decisions: First, we were not going to cancel commencement under any circumstances. It is too important to cancel. Second, we should postpone commencement until a time when we could host it on campus and have graduates and their families enjoy it,” said Daynes.
There are plans for President Searcy to deliver some form of personal action to the seniors during this unusual time for us all.
“He loves Barton’s students and wants to support, encourage, and celebrate their accomplishments. We will know more about what that outreach looks like as the beginning of May draws closer,” said Daynes.
As the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Daynes has an affinity for his duties at the annual commencement ceremony. The coronavirus has hindered that.
“I am saddened that we cannot have commencement. One of my privileges is to read the names of all students when they come to the college at the ceremony of Naming and Induction. Then, I read all of the names of the graduates at commencement. Doing that is meaningful to me—it reminds me how the college, for a few short years, shapes the lives of students. But it also reminds me the many ways in which students shape my life and the life of the college,” said Daynes.
The coronavirus adds an educational side to the postponement of commencement.
“We will learn many things from postponing commencement. We might figure out more efficient and effective ways to hold the event. We will learn how to integrate all the other activities around commencement, so they work better together. And we will re-commit to the core aspects of commencement, so that the conclusion of a student’s time at Barton is marked by that important ritual,” said Daynes.
While the coronavirus continues to increase the worries the lives of millions around the world it is a beacon of hope that Barton college leaders are doing their responsibility of ensuring a safe and educational environment for all students during this time. During this time of remote learning for students at home and those unable to leave campus, Barton College’s Coronavirus Task Force continues to provide education and safety against this pandemic. The task force is composed of 11 Barton college’s staff. Both senior and non-senior personnel serve on the task force. Jennifer High is the Executive Director of Student Health Services and serves as Chair of the task force.
“The task force was put in place because of preparing. We were preparing for the college to response in the first phase, preparation. As the coronavirus threat increased, we had to quickly transform into an action phase. We were informed that it was in Wilson, so now we have to keep both our Barton community and outside community safe,” said High.
High goes on to why it is so important for the campus to take these actions.
“We are the size of the town Black Creek, which means we have to be self-sufficient and make the best decisions for our “little town” during any national disaster,” said High.
The coronavirus task force meets daily and they go over a detailed agenda. “As the virus was now in Wilson, we developed a partnership with Wilson County Health department. I have the privilege of being able to attend a weekly meeting every Tuesday at 1 p.m. During this time, I am able to listen to updates from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services,” said High.
The Department of Health and Human Services allows the college to make decision regarding the safety of its students and employees.
“After the meeting, I am able to give an update of what the government now know and if they may be a concern to the business of the college and/or to students still on campus who are unable to return home. We cover all the different areas and departments on campus,” said High. The college is currently in the monitor phase. “We are making sure that decisions made are going well and looking over if those things are doing good. As the task force we make suggestions to the senior staff of the college and then we learn of what they want to do to proceed,” said High.
While students are at home, employees of the college and on-campus students are practicing all of the tips to combat the virus. Health services on campus are staying in contact with all students remaining on campus. Those services have provided education to students and employees on the common tips of washing hands, not touching your face and ensuring that they understand the importance of social distancing.
“Health services are helping obtain medicines that students need but, can’t pick up themselves and we are making sure they have medical supplies that they need, like thermometers among other things,” said High.
Barton College’s physical plant continues to disinfect as they did before the coronavirus outbreak. Even though majority of the students have returned home, the college is still running operations on campus and ensuring that they provide the best cleaning services to help combat the coronavirus. High wants students to understand that the college is doing everything it can to keep pushing forward during this time.
“This is a unique time in education, and it is important to be kind and patient. The President and senior staff of the college are working hard to ensure the best decisions are made in regard to the health and well-being of our students,” said High. Seniors are on the fence about commencement. While it doesn’t bother some, for others it is frustrating for their “exit” to be postponed.
Daynes understands the frustration but wants students to stay positive during this time.
“I understand their frustration. I wish we had a better option—one that worked for every student who was to graduate in May. But there just wasn’t one. Of course, no student has to come to commencement, and I suspect that many won’t be able to return. But I hope that every single student who can, comes back to Barton and celebrates their achievements with us,” said Daynes.