The Collegian
Sunday, April 11, 2021

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UR community responds to commencement plans for classes of 2020, 2021

<p>The class of 2018&nbsp;celebrates commencement in the Robins Center. <em>Photo courtesy of the University of Richmond.&nbsp;</em></p>

The class of 2018 celebrates commencement in the Robins Center. Photo courtesy of the University of Richmond. 

As seniors prepare to graduate in less than three months, community members respond to the University of Richmond's tentative commencement plans provided by the UR administration at the beginning of February.

UR president Ronald Crutcher provided details about the class of 2021's commencement ceremony, presenting different plans depending on UR's COVID-19 framework in a Feb. 5 email to seniors. He also announced that UR would not be able to hold an on-campus make-up commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 this May in a Feb. 5 email to recent graduates. 

Crutcher wrote to students that an advisory group of class of 2020 alumni would inform UR's decisions about commencement moving forward. 

"It pains me to have to deliver this disappointing news, but please know our commencement planning team continues to work tirelessly to find the best path forward, including via focus group conversations with members of your class in recent weeks," Crutcher wrote. "Your peers indicated their desire for a sense of closure to the Class of 2020’s Richmond experience, as well as an opportunity to come 'home' to campus and reconnect with friends, classmates, professors, and staff mentors."

Aidan Bond, UR '20, said he would look forward to an in-person commencement ceremony for his class if it became possible for UR to host one.

"It certainly makes me happy that the university is prioritizing safety," he said. "At the same time, I'm hopeful that the university will be able to make an in-person celebration at some point in the future, but I understand why they're choosing not to do so now and I think it's the right decision."

Bond said members of the class of 2020 had missed closure for an important chapter of their lives.

"I think it would be really good to get together in person," he said, "and I can't imagine that I would miss it."

The format of the commencement ceremony for the class of 2021 will depend on which stage of UR's physical distancing framework UR is in, Sunni Brown, director of media and public relations, wrote in an email to The Collegian. A decision will be made about the format on or before April 1, she wrote.

"Due to the many contracts, staff needs, and health and safety protocols that must be confirmed prior to Commencement weekend, this plan will be final unless a more restrictive phase be deemed necessary following this decision," Brown wrote. 

If UR is in the Red Stage, ceremonies will be virtual, featuring individual graduate recognition and student and faculty addresses, according to UR's commencement webpage. In the Orange Stage, UR will host multiple physically distanced ceremonies in the Robins Center that will be limited to 200 graduates per ceremony, according to the webpage. Additionally, no guests will be permitted at ceremonies in the Orange Stage, according to the webpage.

In the Yellow Stage, two guest tickets per graduate will be available during multiple physically distanced ceremonies in the Robins Center, which will also be limited to 200 graduates per ceremony, according to the webpage. In the Green Stage, ceremonies will incorporate all members of each class at once, with 7 guests per graduate permitted for the undergraduate ceremony, according to the webpage.

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Ceremonies for students earning master's degrees or graduating from the T.C. Williams School of Law and School of Professional and Continuing Studies can have unlimited guests in the Green Stage, according to the website.

Senior Chris Carlson said he was not bothered by UR's commencement plan for his class because he was not a sentimental person. He noted that some of his friends were upset that they might not have an in-person graduation ceremony, or that their parents might have to watch it virtually. 

Senior Liz Hussin said she was disappointed that the class of 2021 might not be able to have a traditional commencement weekend. However, Hussin said she was not surprised commencement might be virtual because the pandemic is out of UR's control.

"I feel like the ceremony itself isn't even the part that I would be upset about missing," Hussin said. "A big part of graduation is all your friends' parents come into town and your families get to meet each other, and we obviously can't do that."

Students are not required to attend commencement, Brown wrote.

Hussin said she would participate in commencement in any form, whether virtual or in-person. 

Carlson said he was still planning on celebrating his graduation with his parents, even if they were not able to see him walk across the stage in a cap and gown. 

Contact investigative editor Morgan Howland at morgan.howland@richmond.edu.

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