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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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University announces in-person 2021 commencement

Class of 2017 graduates process towards Curran Field for their commencement exercises. FILE PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

After watching the class of 2020 graduate fully online as a result of coronavirus restrictions, representatives of the class of 2021 said they are “cautiously optimistic” after a March 12 university announcement confirmed an on-campus and in-person 2021 commencement ceremony.

University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., wrote in the announcement that the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies will take place on Saturday, May 22. 

The university has not yet released details regarding how many guests will be able to attend the ceremony, according to the announcement. Those details will be available no later than April 9. 

After reading the announcement, Lexi Mignogna ’21 said she was excited about celebrating her graduation in person, especially after such a difficult year. 

“I was absolutely ecstatic,” Mignogna said. “It’s nice to just have one positive event to look forward to.”  

Lindsay Le Van ’21 said having some in-person plans in the works for the ceremony has put her at ease. 

“Now that [the university] announced that it’s officially in person, it’s just nice to know that we don’t have to worry about that and we don’t feel like that’s up for debate anymore,” Le Van said. “The fact that they said it’s going to be in person is just a good feeling.”

Gabrielle Lacherza, public relations manager, wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk that the university began planning commencement in September, which is the typical timeline in any year for planning. 

“In-person, on-campus and keeping the class all together was always the goal, but changing guidance from health officials needed to guide decision-making,” Lacherza said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidelines for organizers of large events and updated resources for those attending smaller gatherings on March 7. Indoor gatherings are limited to 15% of maximum occupancy and outdoor events are limited to 20% of maximum occupancy. 

In the past, St. Joe’s graduation has been held on Curran Field or in Hagan Arena.

Jillian Garvey ’21, president of University Student Senate, said she was frustrated that students were not more involved in the final decision. 

A committee of 15 students, including Garvey, was invited to provide feedback about possible plans at a Feb. 19 meeting with the university’s Commencement Committee after Garvey requested that students be included. She said when she initially approached the university about student representation on the committee, she was turned down. Eventually, the university agreed to allow a group of students to form a subcommittee to provide student input, Garvey said.

“We only met the one time and the goal was originally to have biweekly meetings, but after the first one the course that the committee took kind of left us in the dust,” Garvey said.

One of the students’ biggest concerns, Garvey said, was the number of guests each graduate will be allowed to have at the ceremony.

Reed said in the March 12 announcement that the number of guests for each graduate has not yet been determined. 

Lacherza said the university will continue to prioritize the community’s health and safety, which will include implementing physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand sanitizer stations, cleaning of restrooms and other common spaces at minimum during an in-person commencement. 

“Please remember that our ability to move forward with these plans depends on the continued good actions of the campus community and public health guidelines,” Reed said in the March 12 announcement. “I know we can all do our part.”

Mignogna said she recognizes that an in-person ceremony relies on community members following health and safety protocols.

“I really hope that it can happen, but at the same time, just as easily as things can get better, I’m sure things can easily get worse if people let their guard down,” Mignogna said. “Hopefully, as a community, we can choose to keep each other safe.”

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