Campus

Six CSI Students Spearhead “Grad Walks” for the Class of 2021

The Grad Walk events will be hosted in early June

By: Sabrina Benet

CSI Students Spearhead GradWalk

After receiving the news of virtual commencement, student leaders Shawn Abraham, Olivia Frasca, Seamus Hughes, Lauren Silverman, Maxwell Velikodny, and I grew determined to properly recognize the graduating Class of 2021. 

In February, CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez issued a statement that all CUNY schools will honor their graduating class with a virtual commencement slideshow. The program will include pre-recorded appearances from special guests and speakers, speeches from the class valedictorian and salutatorian, as well as a gallery of graduate slides. Names will not be read in any of the videos; instead, one can navigate to individual slides via dropdown menu or search bar.

After the statement was released, five student leaders and I organized an unofficial committee we called “The Commencement Crew.” United by our common goal of properly congratulating ourselves and our classmates with a modified and safe COVID-friendly event, we set to work.

We began researching policies and guidelines to become familiar with New York City’s current protocol on both outdoor and indoor large events, specifically commencement ceremonies.

We also compiled a list of all SUNY schools and researched what they were doing to honor their graduates properly. SUNY Schools such as Binghamton and Cortland inspired us to pitch the “grad walk” events for CSI. 

After preparing our case and becoming well-versed in city health guidelines, we brought our information to CSI’s administration—but were shut down almost instantly and redirected to CUNY Central. From there, we opened up a conversation with the CUNY Board of Trustees. 

The United Student Senate (USS) became advocates for us, and a representative presented our case to the Chancellor. We were once again redirected–this time, right back to our home campus. 

After passing resolutions in USS and CSI Student Government and receiving support via informal vote in CSI College Council, we secured a meeting with Jennifer Borrero, the Vice President of Student Affairs, who spoke to us regarding the possibilities of a safe and COVID-friendly event to commemorate graduates. 

The administration was impressed with our research, persistence inside and outside of the CUNY realm, and advocacy for student needs. During our discussions, we had mentioned the SUNY schools doing grad walk events. We reached a final compromise: though we could not host a traditional commencement ceremony, we could honor our students with a series of small, informal events. 

We formed a grad walk subcommittee, a branch of the existing commencement committee, to plan the events. 

For my fellow committee member Lauren Silverman, the fight for commencement was eye-opening. 

“I’m absolutely thrilled that my colleagues and I were able to fight for some sort of in-person event,” she said. “Many of us find the virtual commencement format insulting, especially after the challenging year we had, and a small, modified ‘grad walk’ is a huge improvement. I’m so proud to have worked with my incredible classmates to make this happen. They have inspired me with their knowledge, wit, and persistence.”

“But I’m also disappointed. Even with overwhelming support from students, faculty, and even the public, we had to fight unreasonably hard for this. I’m disillusioned by bureaucracy, but still motivated. I’ve always been an outspoken leader, and this experience has fueled me to fight even harder in the future as an advocate for my peers.”

The grad walks are informal events that will allow students to celebrate their achievements with their fellow classmates. Students have the opportunity to wear their caps and gowns, have their names called, take professional photographs, and be cheered on by CSI faculty and staff.

Unfortunately, due to CUNY guidelines and precautions, students cannot bring guests. However, the event will be livestreamed for family and friends to view at home.

The grad walks will consist of two walks per day with 180 class members each on June 9th, 10th and 11th. Each walk has suggested majors and departments listed–however, you may attend whichever walk you are available for.

In order to attend the event, you must sign up with the registration link sent to your CIX email. As well as registration, a health screening survey must be taken using the app Everbridge Health Screening. 

Registration will close at 11:59 p.m. on June 2nd and earlier if slots fill up. Please sign up as soon as possible, as the event is first-come, first-served. 

You must present a green Everbridge Health Screening checkmark when arriving at campus.

The Grad Walks will be held outside between the library and water fountain. Check-in for the event will take place outside of building 1C.

Here’s what you need to bring to your Grad Walk:

Name Card:

To guarantee your name is pronounced correctly, faculty asks you to provide an index card with your printed name and phonetic spelling. Please print legibly. 

Caps and Gowns:

If you have not done so yet, order your cap and gown here. The campus bookstore will have a limited amount of gowns to purchase. If you wish to do so, use Navigate CSI to make an appointment, the bookstore will be listed until Academic Advising. 

 Personal Items:

All students will be expected to carry all their personal items, there will be no secure areas to set down your items so please plan accordingly and do not bring items you cannot carry while wearing your cap and gown. 

The Center for Student Accessibility (CSA) will be making any accommodations for those who would like to participate in these events. You can contact them at csa@csi.cuny.edu.

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