Because of Vermont coronavirus protocols, in-person Commencement will have no outsider audience

“Everyone” is a short word for a large group and complicated spirit, President Mark C. Anarumo said Thursday. And Norwich University, true to its “I Will Try” and “Norwich Together, Norwich Forever” mottos, has worked to include everybody in everything this semester, wherever they chose to study.

In an “Update from the Hill” video, Anarumo discussed Norwich rites — Commencement, junior ring distribution and rook recognition. But he first reiterated themes from past updates — there’s no stigma in having chosen to study off campus because of the coronavirus pandemic and Norwich’s community stays together always.

“This has been a very difficult semester of a very difficult year,” he said. “I have always said, and I mean it very sincerely, that you will never be treated as a second-class member of this university if (studying remotely) was your choice.”

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Rooks participate in their recognition ceremony at Plumley Armory in December 2019. Because of Vermont coronavirus protocols in force now, President Mark C. Anarumo said the next official recognition ceremony will come in August. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

Then, he explained the rites.

— Rook recognition: Anarumo repeated what he said in last month’s updates — that the rook Class of 2024 will be officially recognized together in an August ceremony or ceremonies when campus opens for the fall semester.

Last weekend, a group of on campus Corps of Cadets upperclassmen met at Sabine Field to nod to physically distanced rooks. Anarumo said the upperclassmen did this because they will graduate shortly, perhaps entering the armed forces to be sent far from Vermont or far from the United States.

“They won’t be back in August to participate in any of these recognition events,” Anarumo said. “So, they wanted to be able to have an event where they could explain to the rooks how proud they were of them. … Everyone at home was recognized, everyone on campus was recognized.”

The same upperclassmen who arranged the Sabine Field gathering made a video, using the same words and expressing the same sentiment, and sent it to all rooks, he said. (The Office of Communications will make the video available to the wider community).

— Class rings: Anarumo said the Junior Ring Committee sent Class of 2022 rings to students where they are — home addresses for students off campus, campus post office boxes for students on campus. Some on-campus students, on their own and intending no slight, opened their rings together and took pictures, which Anarumo said was appropriate.

As with the rook recognition, Anarumo said, official ring celebrations for both Corps of Cadets and civilian students will come in the fall.

Shared empathy

— Commencement and Commissioning: Anarumo said although scores of U.S. colleges and universities will take their Class of 2021 celebrations online only, Norwich fought for, and won, the right to have a modified in-person event.

However, he said, coronavirus pandemic-related, Vermont-mandated health protocols, which have caused campus to close to outsiders for the 2020-21 academic year, will prevent an outside audience from joining.

Anarumo said he empathized with parents’ disappointment and shared it. Anarumo, who retired from the Air Force this past August, said he’d planned for about a decade to commission his son, a U.S. Air Force Academy senior, into the service himself in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I don’t know if I will be able to go to his graduation and I don’t know if I will be able to commission him,” Anarumo said. “I’m very, very in touch with your frustration because I feel it myself as a parent. I’m going to have to follow the rule of what Colorado’s going to say.

“Please hear me when I say we’re doing everything we can for every single student here,” he added. “I’m sad, I wanted this to be more meaningful, every day for everyone.”

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