Parents and students gather for a personal graduation at UM in Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR – A group of parents and students from the University of Michigan gathered outside the Michigan Union Saturday afternoon and asked the school to offer a face-to-face degree.

The university announced in February that it would be practically the second time it’s beginning of spring, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“We very much hope that together with the many other celebrations that are an integral part of our community life and our traditions, we can hold a safe start at Michigan Stadium,” wrote UM President Mark Schlissel in a letter to the campus community of the time. “We still don’t know what public health action needs to be taken in May to hold events like the start.”

Tammy Dahlstrom helped organize the rally with two other UM mothers. Their daughter, a senior citizen, will graduate in the spring. Dahlstrom said the group had been writing letters to the school for months offering a personal degree.

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UM mom and rally organizer Tammy Dahlstrom holds a sign on S. State Street in Ann Arbor on March 6, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

“We want to do an opt-in. If people don’t feel comfortable, they don’t have to participate,” said Dahlstrom. “But for those who want, we want that to be available. We have the largest stadium in the whole country, we have other stadiums and auditoriums available. This week the University of Michigan announced that they are doing a personal degree from UM Dearborn. There’s no real reason we can’t. “

Dahlstrom said the group wanted a graduation ceremony at Michigan Stadium that could be smaller than normal years.

“The stadium holds over 107,000 people, and that doesn’t include any space on the field where they can be socially separated,” she said. “We can do well if we do it safely. We can wear masks, we will distance ourselves socially, we will not let grandparents come. “

She said her family is coming to town whether or not there will be a personal opening ceremony because they have a non-refundable hotel reservation.

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“We’ll come no matter what,” she said. “It would make a lot more sense for us if the university did something.”

The protesters held signs outside the union that read “HONK in support of the UMich class of 2021 IN-PERSON, SAFE OPT-In Grad Ceremony”. Cars paced up and down S. State St. kept honking as they passed the group.

Senior Claire DiFranco (right) gathers on March 6, 2021 at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus for a personal graduation. (Meredith Bruckner)

Claire DiFranco, a senior citizen in her fifth year at UM, attended the event with her mother, who found out about it on Facebook.

“There is no perfect solution to this and we fully understand that,” said DiFranco. “But just to see other universities offer their students the option of a personal degree, I think we just want to know that we want that and it would mean a lot after the year we had to get that. “

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