OSU Students Graduate With Handshakes

Saturday, May 9th 2009, 3:28 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

STILLWATER, OK -- A student at Oklahoma State is also recovering after coming down with the swine flu.

The fast-spreading virus had officials in Stillwater worried about Saturday's graduation ceremonies, even announcing they wouldn't shake hands when handing out diplomas.

There was plenty of pomp, but the circumstances this year were a bit different.

"The great handshaking controversy -- I call it 'Shakegate,'" OSU President Burns Hargis said.

In the midst an H1N1 flu outbreak, Hargis decided early this week no congratulatory handshake for the class of 2009, a decision that had some students disappointed.

"I really want to shake hands with my professor," said Tsu Tran, an OSU graduate.

But come Friday, Dr. Hargis had a change of heart.

"Some have lamented that they can't shake hands today," Hargis told the graduates. "Well, I want you to know that if you extend your hand we will gladly shake it."

While at least one graduate was seen putting on an orange glove, nearly all of the 1,000 grads at on ceremony came to the same decision.

"I'm going to shake hands," graduate Kyle Mackin said. "I figure I put this much time and effort, I'll definitely shake hands. I'm not too much worried about the swine flu."

"Heck, yeah, I'm not scared," said another graduate, Caroline Seitz. "I've seen enough germs in other places, and I haven't caught anything."

"The flu did not end up being as bad as we thought as it originally might be, so we thought we'd give them the option if they want to shake hands, we'd allow that," OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said.

The move comes one day after the university learned an undergraduate student was recovering from the swine flu.

But officials say she was not on campus and did not attend the graduation ceremonies Saturday.           

Most of the grads interviewed say years of hard work deserve at the very least a firm hand shake, swine flu or not.

"I ain't worried about any of that," graduate Kyle Hatcher said. "If the good Lord is going to give me the flu, I'll get it and I've worked hard, so I think I deserve to shake hands with somebody."

Again, university officials say the female student is completely recovered from the H1N1 flu and they are confident there were no risks to any students or family members Saturday.