Photo by Elizabeth O'Guin
By Samuel Still, Asst. News Editor-
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, a statement sent on behalf of Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Yancy Freeman and Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jerold Hale announced that UTC will have in-person commencement ceremonies for graduating students beginning on the weekend of Nov. 16.
The event will mark the first time UTC has hosted in-person commencement ceremonies since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students graduating this fall as well as students who already graduated in the spring and summer 2020 semesters will be allowed to participate in the ceremony if they desire to do so.
According to Freeman, the purpose of hosting in-person ceremonies is to celebrate the accomplishments of students graduating in the fall while also making up for the lack of in-person commencement for the spring and summer graduates.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure that we are celebrating the accomplishments of our most recent alums by offering them a ceremony and a chance to acknowledge that accomplishment.” Freeman said.
The university has stated that, while the goal is to celebrate graduates, restrictions will be put in place to protect students from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
These restrictions include placing outdoor, socially distanced seating on Chamberlain Field, requiring graduating students to register for the event to participate and making masks mandatory to wear for the entirety of the event.
Additionally, each ceremony will have a designated time slot over the weekend with no more than 200 people allowed to attend to help minimize COVID-19 risks.
UTC has also made the decision to limit in-person attendance to graduates only to reduce crowd size and prevent potential spreading of COVID-19. The event will be livestreamed and recorded so that friends and families of graduates can watch the event in real-time or download the event to watch at a later time.
For Jake Moore, a UTC student who graduated in spring 2020, the idea of having in-person commencement ceremonies without friends and family in attendance makes him not want to participate. Additionally, with the threat of COVID-19, Moore feels that having in-person ceremonies is not worth the risk.
“The country is also having its fastest case growth since July and all of the sudden UTC decides now is the time to do this.” Moore said. “It just seems like an irresponsible way to save themselves from the criticism they got earlier in the year.”
Addressing student concerns, Freeman stated that UTC is dedicated to protecting the health and safety of graduates by following proper procedures while still giving them a chance to be proud of their accomplishments.
“We know a lot more about the spread of the virus and how to try to mitigate the spread of it,” Freeman said, “and so we’re making decisions that are going to follow our safety guidelines, follow our safety protocols, but give folks an opportunity to gather in a way that allows us to celebrate them.”
Freeman said that the in-person ceremonies are voluntary and if students do not feel safe attending then they do not have to participate; they will still be considered graduates and will still receive their diplomas.
All students that are eligible to participate in the ceremonies will receive a registration form from the university that they can fill out if they want to be a part of the in-person commencement proceedings.