Indiana Daily Student

‘I’ll believe it when I see it’: IU students react to 2021 in-person commencement

As IU seniors look toward finishing their final year at the university, students said they’re looking forward to having graduation in person this May. Graduates from both 2020 and 2021 will celebrate the completion of their time at IU with in-person commencement ceremonies.

IU President Michael McRobbie announced Feb. 22 that IU will offer in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies in May. 

IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said IU’s top leadership team and IU’s Medical Response Team made the decision to have an in-person commencement. Based on the low number of COVID-19 cases at IU, Indiana’s recent decrease in positive cases and the rollout of vaccinations, they determined offering an in-person ceremony would be safe, he said.

Participating graduates must indicate their interest using an online form. Carney said he isn’t sure how many graduates will be in attendance, but he expects thousands to attend. He said he thinks all graduates will feel celebrated at the ceremony.

“This is a celebration of really hard work by students who have been at it for a long time," he said. 

Only graduates and alumni taking part in the ceremony will be allowed to attend. Families are encouraged to attend virtually to avoid large gatherings on campus, Carney said. 

IU senior Chrissy Boehmer said she had mixed feelings when she saw the announcement.

“I feel like a lot of the ceremony is tailored to families, so I was a little upset about that,” she said. 

Boehmer said she has family coming into town to celebrate her graduation, though, and she’s excited to celebrate even if they can’t be at the actual ceremony. She said she hopes the ceremony will acknowledge the struggles the class of 2021 has faced throughout the pandemic. 

She said the choice to have an in-person ceremony and to invite 2020 alumni back shows IU cares about its students, even if the ceremony won’t be like a typical year. 

“I do appreciate that they put in the effort,” Boehmer said. “But I do know it won’t exactly be the same as it was before.”

More information on locations will be released as May approaches, according to the commencement website.  Boehmer said she trusts IU to take precautions to prevent spreading the coronavirus and thinks the ceremony will be safe in a large space.

All graduates present will be required to wear a mask, and graduates may have to go through mitigation testing or show proof of a recent negative mitigation test, Carney said. Specific COVID-19 procedures are still being discussed.

IU senior Jordan Gould said he had a feeling IU would offer graduation in person this year. He said it doesn’t bother him too much that his family won’t be able to attend because they can watch online. 

Gould said while he’s glad to have a chance to celebrate his hard work, he isn’t completely convinced an in-person ceremony will happen at all.

“I’ll believe it when I see it, with the COVID-19 situation sort of changing by the day,” he said. “But things are getting better, so it’s encouraging.” 

Gould said he’s most interested to learn whether specific colleges, like the College of Arts and Sciences in which he is a student, will also have an in-person ceremony. 

“To me, that means more than just a general graduation,” he said. “A more special or meaningful ceremony would be that of my specific school.” 

The chance to attend any graduation ceremony at IU is special because of the ritual and meaning behind it, Carney said. He said attending an IU graduation can’t be replaced. 

“As nice as it was to have the virtual celebrations we had, it’s hard to replicate something like having a graduation ceremony in Memorial Stadium,” Carney said.

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