In-person Commencement risks

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Meg Thompson

The shiny gowns, tasseled caps, scrolled up paper and a firm handshake are just a few of things college students look forward to about graduating. Graduation, the cornerstone celebration of four years of hard work, is a landmark tradition to memorialize the college experience; it serves as a gateway into the next phase of our lives. Seniors have been waiting with bated breath to find out whether or not they will be able to walk the stage in a traditional, in-person commencement ceremony. 

Florida Southern’s 2021 Commencement Ceremony Planning Committee released an official statement on March 16 regarding their decision about the Spring commencement ceremony. It included the following statement:

“After researching information related to holding large events during the pandemic, including the State of Florida’s guidelines on graduation ceremonies, we are so happy to announce that the 2021 Spring Commencement will be a modified in-person ceremony.”

With intentions of being held on Saturday, May 15, the in-person ceremony will follow necessary precautions as advised by the CDC. FSC prefaced that there may be modifications made to this plan should “infection rates become an issue.” They also suggested to plan travel accordingly in case those changes are put into action.

Additionally, FSC has announced that the ceremony will be open to seniors who graduated in the past year that were not able to graduate in-person. December graduate, Hailey Fritz, is still contemplating whether  she will return for the ceremony.

“I’m not totally sure to be honest,” Fritz said. “It feels great to be included! I would love to be able to celebrate graduating but it would involve a lot of planning to return for.”

This begs the question, how will the college accommodate a graduation pool twice the size in the middle of a pandemic? While we have been able to manage safety in a limited capacity, there is no guarantee of that safety when the numbers are increased. 

On March 24, the college sent out a follow-up announcement confirming the plans for the in-person ceremony. Graduation ceremonies will be split up by schools: Education, Business, Nursing and Health Sciences and Arts and Sciences. Each ceremony will take place at different times in separate locations on May 15. Graduates will be allowed tickets for two guests. The ceremonies will be livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person. “The number of guests per graduate will be strictly followed in order to ensure adherence to pandemic protocol,” the announcement said.

As a senior myself, I am anxiously anticipating graduation. After spending my final year of college as a remote student, I feel like I have missed out on some of the excitement of college life. I would love nothing more than to experience walking across that stage and switching over my tassel to commemorate my newly found Alumni status. That being said, I am hesitant of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 from something like an in-person commencement ceremony. 

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