Tech releases plans for in-person commencement

Students sit in rows during the 2019 Spring convocation ceremony. The 2020 Spring ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but graduates can partake in a later ceremony this December. // Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

Tech announced that it plans to hold an in-person commencement ceremony this December at Bobby Dodd Stadium, inviting back spring, summer and fall graduates to participate.

Last spring Tech decided to cancel the normal in-person ceremony at McCamish Pavilion and hold a virtual commencement instead because of COVID-19. Many near-graduates were disheartened by losing the ceremony they had looked forward to, but Tech decided it was the right move to protect students’ health.

Now, still during a pandemic, Tech is attempting to give these students another chance to graduate in-person.

Tech has made some changes from the normal ceremony to try and reduce the risk associated with bringing many people together.

The first is that commencement will take place in Bobby Dodd Stadium since it is a large, open-air venue. Physical distancing and mask wearing will also be enforced in the stadium.

Contact with other students and faculty will be limited. There will be no student processional, and students will not shake hands with Institutional leadership or be hooded by their advisor. Students will still be individually recognized at the ceremony though.

The event will take place over two days, Dec. 11 and 12, in three sessions. Students will be assigned a session based on their degree level and graduating semester.

The first ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11 will celebrate masters and undergraduate students who finished their course work in spring or summer of 2020. Fall masters students as well as spring, summer and fall Ph.D. recipients will matriculate on Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. The final ceremony for fall bachelor’s students will commence on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 2 p.m.

Commencement will happen rain or shine, and Tech will be livestreaming the event for those unable to attend. The Institute also advised those at a high risk of illness due to COVID-19 to not attend the in-person event and watch the live stream option instead.

An anonymous graduate student said, “it’s a difficult decision for me to walk or not, because it still feels like a ‘fake’ graduation if we aren’t able to keep with a lot of the traditions.” The student said the Institute’s communication with graduates has been poor, and they would not be surprised if RSVP numbers were low for the event.

Elizabeth Gilbert, ME ’20 and current master’s student, said she was upset that the ceremony last spring was cancelled but was not surprised given the growing circumstances at the time.

Gilbert “appreciated the virtual celebration that the school put on” last spring, but was “holding out some hope that a ceremony like the one happening this fall in Bobby Dodd might have been an option.”

Gilbert thinks this upcoming commencement “will be different, especially without the handshake and potentially the balloon drop.” She said that graduates were given the options of participating in December or next May, and she chose the latter because of a high-risk family member she would not feel safe inviting them this winter.

Commencement is an important part of any Tech student’s journey, and while different, the ceremony this fall gives graduates a second chance to put a proper end to their time at Tech.

Students are required to RSVP to the event to attend and receive their five guest tickets. The RSVP window opens Oct. 19, and no same day reservation is allowed.

According to Tech, all 2020 graduates can apply to walk in the Spring 2021 ceremony if they are unable to attend the December ceremonies.

Information regarding the spring semester ceremonies will be published in January.