Editorial: Resiliency, unity connect University of Iowa Class of 2020 graduates

The end of our time at the University of Iowa is less than ideal, but this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced hardship together. With unity, we’ll bounce back from the pandemic, too.


University of Iowa freshman Grace Aldrin speaks during Convocation on the Pentacrest on Sunday, August 25, 2019.

DI Editorial Board

To the University of Iowa Class of 2020:

This time of year for graduates is normally filled with moments to soak up our lasts: Our last time in the classroom. Our last time cramming for finals in the Main Library. Our last time venturing downtown Iowa City with our friends to dance and drink at the bars.

This May, we’re having to say goodbye to our fellow Hawkeyes from a distance without all the usual fanfare because of COVID-19.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board congratulates our peers in the graduating class who’ve overcome division that is both tangible and invisible while earning degrees. We’ve learned throughout our UI journeys that together, we can bounce back stronger from any hardship we face.

Most of us first stepped foot on this campus four years ago amid extreme ideological division as we approached the 2016 general election.

For some, Donald Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency was a welcome change of pace from business-as-usual in Washington politics. Others attended classes the next day shell shocked that a man who some feel espouses racism and xenophobia, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, and who fear-mongers could secure the nation’s highest office.

Still, we have found ways to coexist and to challenge each other to grow despite the division. We’ve pushed our campus to grow with us. Our graduating class is filled with fierce advocates for those with marginalized identities — many of whom are profiled in DI’s May 2020 graduation edition. We’ve stepped up to look out for one another and to ensure that future Hawkeyes, regardless of identity, are embraced on this campus.

Together, this graduating class has also coped with tragedies. No one expected the death of our fellow classmates to be among the struggles we’d face in our four years as Hawkeyes. We unexpectedly lost two members of our own class not long before our freshman years ended. Our peers, UI freshmen Sean Wu and Kamil Jackowski, died in April 2017 — Wu in Daum Hall, Jackowski at an out-of-town fraternity formal — and will only graduate with us in spirit this week.

But Hawkeyes united to honor their lives. Two scholarships were created in Wu’s honor and are presented to students who share his passion: participation in Bijou, FilmScence, and the KRUI radio station. Jackowski’s death prompted members of the UI greek community to make drastic changes to out-of-state formals and to tackle a culture of high-risk drinking to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

Finally, although not a member of their graduating class, the death of student Mollie Tibbetts shook the nation, along with Hawkeyes everywhere, just as we began the second half of our UI journeys. Tibbetts, an incoming UI sophomore, was found dead a month after her disappearance in August 2018 in rural Poweshiek County. While all eyes of the country were on the UI in hopes of making a political statement, Hawkeyes stood together and honored Tibbetts’ death while refusing to politicize it.

Our graduating class has dealt with as many hardships as celebrations.

We witnessed the opening of Voxman Music Building our first year on campus, which marked the last major milestone of the UI’s recovery after the 2008 flood left the School of Music without a designated home for eight years.

These are just two of countless examples of Hawkeyes striving to make their community better.

We will not get the commencement ceremony we imagined over the last several years as we worked toward our degrees. Instead, more than 3,100 of us 5,400 or so graduates will tune in online to be recognized virtually for our achievement. Combined with the loss of “lasts” and many goodbyes, it’s natural to feel deprived and unrecognized.

Four years after we first arrived, we’re preparing to graduate while we’re physically apart, but perhaps more unified than we’ve ever been.

It’s been more than two months since novel coronavirus mitigation efforts abruptly halted in-person classes, closed businesses, and sent Hawkeyes home. For graduating seniors, that meant unsaid goodbyes to professors, classmates, and lecture halls we would never get the opportunity to see again.

Our classrooms may look a little different now, but we’ll complete our finals and know we accomplished a large feat amid this unprecedented pandemic.

We will always feel connected to the UI and remain united in what will now be our “new normal.” Hopefully many of us have a chance to meet again soon when we can return to campus for in-person commencement ceremonies, as the university has offered. Our Hawkeye hearts will swell when we return once more to the nest where we learned how to spread our wings and soar toward bright futures.

It’s difficult to leave this campus without the proper closure and celebration we deserve. There’s so much we don’t know, but we’re certain of this: Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye.

Congratulations, Class of 2020. We’re a group bound together by our resilient spirit. We’ve already gotten through so many hardships together, and by remaining united, we’ll get through this too.


DI Editorial Board