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Graduation to be online; ASU OKs in-person, college-specific celebrations

This semester's ceremony will be the third held virtually, but individual colleges plan to have in-person events for graduates

Photo illustration done on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.
Photo illustration done on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.

ASU's Spring 2021 graduation commencement ceremony will be held virtually for the expected 19,000 graduates this semester for the third time in a row, University President Michael Crow announced in an email to students.

On May 3, a University-wide graduation presentation will be premiered, Crow said, allowing graduates and their families the ability to celebrate from anywhere in the world. For students and families hoping to celebrate the accomplishment in person, individual colleges will host smaller, in-person events to recognize this semester's graduates, Crow said. 

In-person events will be limited to only graduates, Crow said.

Deans submitted their in-person plans last week, a University spokesperson said, and details will be communicated to students of each college "in the coming days," according to the email. Each college is expected to have a virtual event where every graduate will be recognized, the spokesperson said. In-person activities will be add-ons and will vary by college.

Crow said each college's in-person events will "include the hooding of doctoral candidates and many smaller innovative events." One "innovative" event Crow listed was "an outdoor procession for masters and undergraduate students" at the College of Health Solutions.

"We have a creative and innovative culture at ASU, so I look forward to seeing what ideas and activities emerge," Crow said.

Graduates will have the opportunity to receive a professional graduation photo across campuses, the email said, and "will provide a social media inventory available for all graduates."

Despite a recent decrease in COVID-19 cases and an increase in vaccine eligibility for Arizonans, the University did not feel it could safely accommodate such a large event for graduates. 

Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey lifted additional COVID-19 safety precautions placed on businesses and events in an executive order.

Under the order, local governments are prohibited from enforcing mask mandates, except when inside government buildings or public transportation. Bars will be able to reopen at full capacity and return to normal operations. Events with more than 50 people will not need local government approval. And COVID-19 "business guidance will transition from requirements to recommendations," a press release said.

The previous two virtual graduation ceremonies have left students disappointed and frustrated with the events, citing unsuccessful attempts to be innovative and a general disappointment of having the dream of a traditional graduation crushed by the pandemic.

Last Wednesday night, ASU staff accidentally uploaded a draft of Crow's announcement on the graduation website before it was ready, the spokesperson said.

Students on the ASU subreddit, where the accidental draft was posted, expressed disappointment.

"We hope you look forward to recognizing the incredible achievements of our students who did everything we ask of our graduates under extraordinary circumstances and with unforeseen challenges due to the pandemic," Crow said.

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Wyatt MyskowProject Manager

Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.

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