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Editorial: UNM fails its grads, families with today’s closed ceremony

“Congratulations!” “We love you!” “You did it!” Those are among favorite shoutouts by family members when their loved one walks proudly across the stage to receive their diploma. But there won’t be any of that at 9 a.m. today at University Stadium.

Albuquerque Public Schools allowed four guests per graduate at its outdoor commencement ceremonies this week at Nusenda Community Stadium and Civic Plaza Downtown.

New Mexico State University is allowing two guests each at its commencement ceremonies this weekend.

But the University of New Mexico isn’t allowing any at University Stadium – which is outdoors and seats more than 39,000 – “in order to ensure manageable, safely-spaced seating for all graduates.”

With 3,500 UNM graduates, there would have been plenty of room for guests to maintain COVID-safe distancing and still get to see the culmination of years of hard academic work by their loved ones. A UNM spokesperson told KRQE News 13 the decision to not allow guests was made in March when Bernalillo County was in the yellow phase of the state’s color-coded county restriction framework.

But Bernalillo County moved from yellow to green in late April and from green to turquoise early this month. For reference, Doña Ana County also moved from green to turquoise early this month, and NMSU was able to accommodate guests Friday and today at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

The turquoise level allows 75% attendance at outdoor recreational facilities, green allows 50% and yellow allows 33%. UNM had weeks to plan for at least some guests, but UNM said this week it was too late to make changes or expand the event.

“We will be live-streaming commencement on multiple platforms so that your well-earned walk across the stage can be celebrated in real-time by your family and friends,” states a UNM announcement.

Talk about anti-climatic. Unlike APS and NMSU, UNM let thousands of graduates and their families down. Commencement is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, but today Lobo family members are relegated to what amounts to a Zoom call as commencement is live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook and the university’s website.

Our UNM graduates certainly earned a “way to go” and “we love you” shouted out by family members. Unfortunately, today those will be directed at phone and computer screens miles away.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.