No to robots: Terengganu uni students against avatar stand-ins for graduation ceremony amid Covid-19 pandemic (VIDEO)

Tan Mei Zi
A robot receiving a scroll from UniSZA vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Hassan Basri Awang Mat Dahan (middle). — Screengrab from YouTube/UniSZA Official Channel

PETALING JAYA, June 1 — A majority of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) students are firmly against the idea of using robots as stand-ins for their graduation ceremony in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

UniSZA previously mooted the idea of using androids in place of students for their 2020 convocation, where graduates can tune in via video call and receive their diplomas from the stage by controlling the robots remotely.

A video shared on the official UniSZA YouTube page shows staff members dressing the robots in graduation robes for a practice run of a simulated event.

“This programme is a simulation for UniSZA graduates in case we cannot hold our convocation face-to-face,” said the university’s vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Hassan Basri Awang Mat Dahan.

Dr Hassan said the students’ faces would be displayed on tablets fixed on the robots’ heads, allowing them to accept their diplomas from the safety of their homes to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Several students panned the idea on social media and urged UniSZA to postpone their graduation instead, with many saying that they had worked too hard for their big moment to boil down to this.

“As a final year student, I am against this idea. The struggle for four years for this degree was not for a robot to take my scroll. The moment matters to us,” said one user on YouTube.

“I don’t agree at all with having a simulation like this. We want a real-life convocation and not a livestreaming (session).

“Furthermore, we want to be able to celebrate our achievement of finishing our studies with our loved ones,” said another on Facebook.

UniSZA later clarified that no final decision has been made regarding this year’s convocation and that they simply wanted to demonstrate that they had the resources to conduct a socially distanced graduation if necessary.

The higher learning institute previously introduced a robot named Naseem as a scroll presenter at one of their ceremonies last year.

The idea of using robot avatars as stand-ins for students at graduations has been replicated at a number of universities across the world, including Business Breakthrough University in Tokyo, Japan and Arizona State University in the United States.

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