Ohio University announced Wednesday it will host multiple in-person commencement ceremonies with a livestream option for 2021 graduates.
Prior to OU’s announcement, spring commencement was to be held in an entirely virtual format. Now, graduates will be given the option to attend commencement in person or to view commencement through a live stream. During commencement, names of those attending in-person will be announced first, followed by those viewing remotely.
Spring commencement ceremonies will be held over a five-day period in Peden Stadium from April 29 to May 3, and multiple ceremonies may take place each day. Graduates must RSVP to be assigned a specific day and ceremony.
Students in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine will have an in-person commencement May 8, according to a university news release. More details will be given to HCOM students directly from the college.
“We are going to gather (graduates) in groups by college as much as humanly possible, so students should be able to graduate with their college and program friend group,” Jenny Hall-Jones, interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said.
The number of guests per graduate will be limited to two people in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Contact information for each guest will be requested to potentially conduct contact tracing.
“Last week, (Gov. Mike DeWine) increased the capacity for outdoor venue events, and so that's allowed us to have even more flexibility as we work through how many events and ceremonies (to have) and how many people will attend each,” Jennifer Kirksey, OU president Duane Nellis’ chief of staff, said.
While the ceremonies will be held in-person, they will look drastically different. Every person must maintain social distancing, there will be no processional or recessional and students will stand up in their seat when their name is called rather than walk on stage, Hall-Jones said.
“I'm really hoping people still understand because we are in a pandemic, and we need to be careful about our county,” Hall-Jones said. “Athens is not just Ohio University, so we need to make sure that we're responsible to our community.”
OU is asking students attending to complete a personal health screening prior to commencement.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hall-Jones said students should take precautions throughout this semester in order to keep commencement in person.
“Do not let fest season sway you from your public safety guidelines,” Hall-Jones said. “Stay committed because we are all focused on giving our graduates this commencement.”
Additionally, regional campuses will be invited to attend commencement in Peden Stadium. Regional campuses will also hold graduation recognition activities April 29 or 30, according to the news release, with more information to be shared with students in the coming days.
“The in-person commencement ceremonies do encompass our regional campuses,” university spokesperson Carly Leatherwood, said. “The regional graduates are welcome to come to the in-person ceremonies.”
OU is still working to give those who graduated in 2020 the in-person graduation ceremony they missed out on due to the COVID-19 pandemic after postponing commencement last year.
“We're planning the spring 2020 commencement now, so we will be announcing that before the end of this Spring Semester,” Leatherwood, said.
Hall-Jones said although graduation will look different this year, those graduating should still have the recognition.
“We are so proud of our students and all the work that they've put into these degrees, and to come together as a community and celebrate that is amazing,” Hall-Jones said. “It will look different, but it'll definitely still be Bobcat graduation.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article contained an incorrect title under Jenny Hall-Jones. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.