Colleges, Universities Adjust To New Graduation Guidelines

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Colleges and universities across the state may need to adjust their commencement plans now that the state has updated its guidelines around graduation ceremonies.

The guidelines announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday allows a limited number of guests for indoor and outdoor events of various sizes.

Here are the updated state guidelines:

Outdoor events:

  • Large-scale ceremonies of over 500 people at outdoor venues will be limited to 20% of capacity, applicable to venues with a total capacity of 2,500 or more.

  • Medium-scale ceremonies of 201-500 people at outdoor venues will be limited to 33% of capacity.

  • Small-scale ceremonies of up to 200 people or two attendees per student at outdoor venues will be limited to 50% of capacity. Proof of a recent negative test result or proof of completed immunization is optional.

Indoor Events:

  • Large-scale ceremonies of over 150 people at indoor venues will be limited to 10% of capacity, applicable to venues with a total capacity of 1,500 or more.

  • Medium-scale ceremonies of 101-150 people at indoor venues will be limited to 33% of capacity.

  • Small-scale ceremonies of up to 100 people or two attendees per student at indoor venues will be limited to 50% of capacity. Proof of a recent negative test result or proof of completed immunization is optional.

Schools across the state had already announced their plans for commencement prior to the announcement. Both RIT and Nazareth College planned to host smaller in-person ceremonies and stream the events for guests at a separate location.

“We will be allowed to have two guests, but they just can’t come into the Golisano Training Center where the ceremony will be held,” said Emmarae Stein, a senior at Nazareth College.

Stein, who will receive a dual-degree in communication and history, said she feels grateful to be able to participate in an in-person ceremony this year

RIT will host multiple small ceremonies to honor the classes of 2020 and 2021. Carl Langsenkamp, director of public information, said it takes months to plan a graduation under normal circumstances and the school took input from the students before making their final decision.

“You have to respect what’s happening with COVID, and make sure not only the students are safe but the family and friends that would come on to campus,” Langsenkamp said.

John Delate, associate vice president of student affairs at Monroe Community College, oversees the school’s commencement committee. He said previous state guidelines made it impossible for the school to host their in-person ceremony at the Blue Cross Arena this year.

“Under current circumstances, it’s still not possible to hold something of this scale,” said Delate. “While it’s not ideal, we felt we could do the best we can with a virtual ceremony that will honor students.”

Delate said honoring someone virtually does not have the same impact as it does in person; MCC’s goal is to return back to the traditional ceremony next year.

“We really need to do things in person, especially something as important as commencement to honor a student’s achievement,”Delante said.

Schools will now have to decide if they will allow guests at their ceremonies and how many, but most schools will stream their graduation ceremonies.