by Danny Reinan, Gaffe Writer
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of integral facets of life at Augsburg have been utterly dismantled. While students who have needed to leave their residence halls have been given the infrastructure to do so, online classes are beginning to become routine, and the institution is providing resources for students impacted by the virus. The class of 2020 has been anxiously awaiting information regarding another important touchstone of Augsburg life – the 2020 graduation ceremony. Given the shutdown of the campus and the necessity of social distancing, walking for graduation at a physical venue was definitively ruled out. This caused graduates to speculate about how their accomplishments might be honored – would the ceremony be postponed for a later time, or would they have to sit in front of their webcams wearing graduation caps? A recent announcement by President Paul Pribbenow solidified the plans for the upcoming ceremony. Upcoming graduates will no longer have to look to the horizon and wonder how they will be recognized, as a solution has come in the form of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch.
The hotly-anticipated life simulation game has given many people comfort during the quarantine, and it will now give similar relief to Augsburg students who feared that they would not be recognized. The game allows players to transform an uninhabited island into their dream town, customizing its buildings, tending to flora and fauna, and even terraforming rivers and cliffs. This level of adaptability has given the institution all of the tools that it needs to craft the perfect graduation venue. By May, Augsburg aims to have prepared a stage surrounded by rare hybrid flowers, custom graduation gowns for all of the seniors’ digital avatars, and even a guest appearance from platinum-record selling musician K. K. Slider.
While Animal Crossing has provided a unique opportunity for seniors who feared that they wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation, it has exacerbated many of Augsburg’s recent financial concerns. Augsburg’s recent budgetary error was a blow to the institution, as was the “negative outlook” credit grade that was given to Augsburg by Moody’s Investor Service. Now, with the changes to the commencement ceremony, Augsburg is in debt once again – to real estate mogul Tom Nook. Preparing the perfect stage for graduation means shelling out millions of Bells to Nook, and President Pribbenow has been working feverishly to repay the difference by catching fish, selling shells, and making trips to the treacherous Tarantula Island. Augsburg’s institutional struggle to repay this debt has illuminated the unfortunate truth that, even in a paradise as idyllic as Animal Crossing, the clutches of capitalism are inescapable – except this time, the clutches come from the diabolical paws of a land baron raccoon.
“I’ve accumulated more wasp stings and spider bites than I can count in my pursuit of the perfect ceremony,” Pribbenow said. “I hope that the community can recognize the lengths that we’ve gone to as an institution to ensure that our students get the recognition they deserve, even amidst this unprecedented crisis.” Pribbenow recognizes that the alternative ceremony may be a disappointment for seniors who hoped to walk at a physical venue, but he hopes that students can see a silver lining. “In a way, this debacle has led us to innovate and create a unique experience in a way that no institution before us ever has,” Pribbenow said. “How many graduates can say that they’ve their achievements recognized by a nudist dog?”