Students Denied High School Graduation Due to COVID May Miss Out Again amid College Protests

“We’ve missed out on enough,” said one senior, who also acknowledged it seems trivial "to complain about graduation when people’s lives are on the line"

<p>Unique Nicole/Getty</p>  Graduates celebrate during the procession at USC

Unique Nicole/Getty

Graduates celebrate during the procession at USC's 140th commencement ceremony on May 12, 2023

Amid the recent wave of college protests over the Israel-Hamas war, some graduating students who didn’t experience a traditional high school graduation in 2020 due to the pandemic are experiencing mixed emotions knowing that they might miss out on the experience again.

On Thursday, April 25, the University of Southern California (USC), which has seen protests as well as 93 arrests at its campus on the heels of the decision to cancel Muslim student Asna Tabassum's valedictorian speech, announced that it will not hold its main graduation commencement ceremony scheduled for May 10. Instead, “the university will be hosting dozens of commencement events, including all the traditional individual school commencement ceremonies where students cross the stage, have their names announced, are photographed, and receive their diplomas.”

“With the new safety measures in place this year, the time needed to process the large number of guests coming to campus will increase substantially,” USC’s statement added.  “As a result, we will not be able to host the main stage ceremony that traditionally brings 65,000 students, families, and friends to our campus all at the same time and during a short window from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.”

The last time USC canceled its main commencement ceremony was in 2020 shortly after the COVID pandemic started, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Divya Jakatdar, a senior and student body president at USC, told The New York Times that the decision was a "very big hit to morale." Like many others, Jakatdar's high school had a "drive-through" ceremony, and the senior had been hoping senior year at USC would be a kind of do-over.

“We’ve missed out on enough,” Jakatdar told the newspaper, going on to add that at the same time, “It seems sort of ridiculous for us to complain about graduation when people’s lives are on the line.

Related: Hundreds of Students Protest Texas School’s New Cellphone Ban: 'This Is Not Right'

Another USC senior, who had a similar high school graduation, told Fox affiliate KTTV that his relatives were planning to visit Los Angeles to help him celebrate. "It was going to be a wonderful moment," he said.

Speaking with ABC affiliate KGO-TV, fellow senior Meera Popli said the decision to cancel graduation was "disheartening" — and that she "would've liked to see USC protect their students and protect their voices more."

Similar mixed emotions have also beeb on display from students at Columbia University, where over 100 students were arrested last week, per the Associated Press.

Senior Henry Sears told NBC News that "the top concern that I’ve been thinking about is what will happen with commencement, especially since our first year of college was online."

Related: Texas Judge Sets Trial Date After Black Student Suspended Over His Locs

Rachel Burns, a graduating Columbia student, experienced her high school graduation in Maine from a car in a school parking lot in 2020.

However, she is in solidarity with other Columbia student protesters, telling The New York Times, “I think that what’s most important right now is that we stick together and put up a united front against the administration and if that means sacrificing my graduation, then I’m willing to do that.”

Related: Christian University Grads Hand School President Pride Flags in Protest of Anti-LGBTQ+ Policies

In a statement shared with PEOPLE on Friday, April 26, a Columbia University spokesperson said that commencement planning remains underway.

“We continue to assess the situation on campus. We are focused on the events at hand and keeping the campus community safe and secure," the spokesperson said. "Planning is underway for commencement, as well, with the same goals in mind for this cherished annual celebration.”

In addition to Columbia and USC, recent student protests have occurred at New York University, Ohio State University, Harvard University and other institutions in the U.S., per the AP.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.