Modified graduations again likely for many schools

Students continue to face many challenges related to the global pandemic. No one could have predicted at the start of 2020 that the schooling students have grown accustomed to over several generations would be completely transformed, seemingly at the drop of a hat. That sudden shift has proven to be just one of many challenges that students, educators and parents faced during the pandemic.

Members of the class of 2020 faced a lot of adversity as ceremonies like prom and graduation were canceled. Though the world is slowly emerging from the pandemic as more people are vaccinated, virtual and modified graduations figure to be the norm for 2021.

New York University President Andrew Hamilton announced in a February 2021 email that the school would be holding a virtual commencement for the Class of 2021. He cited an inability to safely host a mass gathering amid the ongoing pandemic. Indiana University plans to hold an in-person commencement at all of its campuses, but it will be limited to graduates only. Family and friends can join the celebration virtually. Emory University will have Dr. Anthony Fauci as its commencement speaker for its College of Arts and Sciences. Emory plans to hold a series of live and physically distanced graduation ceremonies for its various colleges. Dr. Fauci will be live-streamed remotely from Washington, D.C. The University of Florida and other schools will spread ceremonies across several days so that graduates can receive their degrees in person.

Regardless of how graduations will be held this year, graduates and their families must be resilient and accommodating. If a school hosts an in person ceremony, graduates may be asked to adhere to certain guidelines, including:

– physical distancing protocols that adhere to CDC recommendations

– multiple ceremony dates

– eliminating or shortening processional marches

– eliminating handshakes from presiding faculty

– reduced numbers of speakers

– limits to the number of guests in attendance

– ceremonies taking place outside

Graduates who will participate in virtual commencements are urged to be ready for the celebration in advance and test the strength of their internet connections. Also, he or she should download an updated version of the video conferencing application the school will be using and check the invitation link to understand how to connect. Family and friends should do the same so they can view the ceremony as well.

Graduations stand to be different this year, but faculty and students can do their best to adapt and celebrate graduates’ hard-earned accomplishments.