Virtual Graduation Ceremony Delayed by Cyber-attack

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A Florida university's virtual graduation ceremony was stymied on Sunday by a cyber-attack.

Florida Gulf Coast University's Class of 2020 was due to take part in a digital spring commencement ceremony managed by StageClip at 10am on May 3. The celebratory occasion was relegated to an online-only event to comply with social distancing and lockdown measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Five minutes before the ceremony was due to start, the vendor began experiencing issues. The list of graduates became distorted as names of some students were linked to photographs of others. 

After experiencing several glitches, the site crashed, ruining the ceremony and disappointing thousands of students eager to mark their special day.

FGCU graduate Luisa Rodriguez was determined to make her graduation memorable despite having to celebrate it from her couch instead of surrounded by her family, friends, and student peers.  

“We were all super excited and ready, and I was with my cap and my sisters’ gown from 2016 and all my stoles and everything,” said Rodriguez. “And we sat in front of the computer and were like, ‘What is going on?’”

It transpired that StageClip's problems were the result of a cyber-attack on its servers.

Rodriguez said: “My mom, she started crying because she said, you know, you work so hard. You don’t deserve this. None of you guys deserve this.”

Due to receive their degrees via the virtual Sunday ceremony were 1,715 undergraduate students and 219 graduate-level students.

Commenting on the disruption of the ceremony, FGCU graduate Carli Coppola said: “I was definitely worried, and I saw a lot of comments on Facebook saying, you know, we waited all this time to be able to see our picture and graduate, but we weren’t able to.” 

While StageClip worked to rebuild its website, students were invited to view the virtual commencement address recorded by FGCU president Dr. Michael Martin and posted on the university's website.

"While today was disappointing, nothing can take away from our graduates’ tremendous accomplishment at the end of a uniquely challenging semester," said a spokesperson for FGCU.

StageClip described the results of the attack on the virtual ceremony as "very disheartening for all parties involved."

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