Virtual commencement errors leave Hampton University graduates and families angry, disappointed


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – College graduation is a big milestone to be celebrated, but many families of Hampton University seniors said they’re angry with the ceremony their graduates got.

Families told 10 On Your Side the virtual commencement had multiple errors including misspelled names, wrong pictures, and some students omitted from the ceremony altogether.

The university acknowledged the errors and said there were several factors starting with the external contractor hired to produce the ceremonies. The school said the contractor failed them.

“It just seemed like it was very poorly executed,” said Jahi Cooper.

The university’s virtual commencement for the Class of 2020 and 2021 graduates debuted online on Sunday. Families said the first issue was getting the link to play.

“We’re all dressed up, the house is decorated, the kids are ready to be celebrated — and nothing,” said Ameerah Shabaka-Bilal.

They said they eventually found the ceremonies on the school’s YouTube channel. However, their frustrations only got worse.

Jahi Cooper said his name wasn’t included. He later learned it was in the wrong ceremony.

“I was like ‘Wow did they just forget my name?’ It was heartbreaking,” Jahi Cooper said.

“We were there prepared to celebrate that moment with him and that was stripped away,” said Len Cooper, Jahi Cooper’s father. 

Another parent said her twins were also affected.

“My son was entirely omitted – no picture, no mention,” Shabazz-Bilal said. “My daughter was in the wrong school. We had to search for her.”

10 On Your Side contacted the university, which said several factors led to the mishap. In an official statement, they said much of the data that was presented was not reflected in the final product received.

Graduates said the ceremony was a disappointment after a challenging year.

“It was a big slap in the face and it just didn’t seem like they really cared about the students,” Jahi Cooper said.

Sources close to the university said school officials are working day and night to try and re-embrace the 2020 and 2021 graduates.

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