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UM students, parents protest for in-person commencement

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Posted at 9:40 AM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-07 09:56:18-05

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Students and parents at the University of Michigan are pushing back after the school announced its plans to hold a virtual commencement this spring.

Drivers passing by the Michigan Union on Saturday honked their horns, joining students and parents making noise to demand an in-person graduation.

“Just having that, it would mean so much to us,” said graduating senior Claire DiFranco.

Growing up in maize and blue, DiFranco says she worked her whole life for this moment.

“I've always been a U of M fan. I've grown up a U of M fan," DiFranco said. "So being able to graduate in the Big House was just a dream of mine forever and it got me through a lot of hard times.”

Due to the pandemic, the university announced spring commencement will be entirely virtual. Parents and students are upset seeing other campuses like the University of Michigan – Dearborn finding ways to celebrate in person.

“The University of Michigan, we’re leaders and best," said parent Tammy Liss. "We’re not even following.”

The university has said they will offer other in-person experiences for students, like socially distant photo ops at Michigan Stadium but to many, it’s not the same.

“It's like the students are forgotten and the students come last here,” Liss said.

The students and parents are now begging the school to reconsider, calling for a safe outdoor commencement with masks and social distancing.

“With the biggest football stadium in the country, it would be more than feasible to have the graduating class in there,” DiFranco said.

For now, the school is moving ahead with a virtual commencement on May 1 as students hope to find a way to walk across the stage.

“Being able to do that just kind of brings the whole thing full circle,” DiFranco said.

The university has said that additional celebratory experiences for graduates will be announced soon, but the decision to hold a virtual graduation is final and will not be reconsidered.