David Thomas Optimistic about a 2020 Graduation and the Spring Semester
Sizwe Chapman & Torrence Banks, Editor in Chief & Managing Editor
Due to COVID-19, Morehouse College’s Class of 2020 lost the ability to walk across the stage in May and had their graduation ceremony and festivities pushed back to December. This saddened many seniors, as it was something that they were looking forward to all year. Currently, Morehouse is still working on having a ceremony in December inside Forbes Arena.
Morehouse College President David Thomas met with 2020 Student Class President Ray Cornelius and 2019-2020 SGA President Trey Bowers during the Spring 2020 semester to discuss graduation. Both students felt that it was important for the 2020 seniors to get their own day.
“They both wanted us to do everything we could to give the seniors their day,” Thomas said. “And this was important because this senior class had five presidents and saw the school through a very difficult period of administrative transition, including having one of those presidents who was an interim President Bill Taggart, who everyone loved, he passed away only two months after being appointed.”
The Morehouse College administration agreed to give Morehouse 2020 their graduation on December 13, 2020. The college still plans to uphold this agreement as long as virus conditions improve. The ceremony will be held indoors in Forbes arena due to the cold December weather.
“It’ll be December, so we won’t do outside graduation,” Thomas said. “But, we’re anticipating that we can have sufficient social distancing in Forbes Arena so we can have in-person graduation for that class.”
“But we’ve also learned with viruses, you have to plan for all the alternatives. So we also have a plan that if we can’t do it in person, we will do a virtual graduation ceremony.”
The start of the Spring 2021 semester was pushed back to February in order to create more time for the United States to better manage the virus. Thomas would like for the infection rate to fall below 1% before opening the campus up for normal activity.
“That’s driven primarily by wanting to create as much time for the country and in particular the southeast region where many of our students come from, including the city of Atlanta, to get to different management of the virus,” Thomas said.
“If the infection rates get back below 1%, I think we can open the campus up to its normal activity. Between 5% and 1% infection rate, I’d be comfortable attempting to do what we had planned to do this semester, which was a low density, meaning freshman and seniors who want to live on campus, given it’s their last semester being on campus and everybody else either being remote or commuting into campus.”
If the infection rate is above 5%, Thomas does not feel comfortable bringing students back to campus due to the political environment surrounding the virus in Georgia. The University of North Carolina tried to open its campus in a state where the infection rate was greater than 5%. The institution later regretted it.
“And you can just see what’s already happening at some colleges that have tried to open in a state where the infection rate was above 5% right,” Thomas said. “I mean, University of North Carolina just shut it down. The president there is wishing that his administration had the intestinal fortitude to do what we did.”
Thomas hopes that students can return to campus in the spring. Seeing African American men on campus striving to achieve their goals is one of his favorite parts about being president.
“In the two and a half years I’ve been here people would ask me ‘what makes you want to be the President of Morehouse College’ and all the headaches that a President has to put up with,’” Thomas said. “I would describe to them one scene that makes it all worth it. it’s leaving my house every morning at 8:30 and walking to work. And seeing more than 1000 young men, young black men pursuing excellence with the belief that they can be great. You can’t do it anywhere else on the planet.
“So, I miss you guys terribly. For purely selfish reasons, I’m gonna do everything I can and I will pray every day that we will all be on this hilltop on February 1.”