Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
On May 8, Berry will be holding an in-person Commencement Ceremony for the graduating class of 2021. The location of the ceremony is yet to be decided between the Evans Hall lawn or Vallhala Stadium, but graduates will be allowed to have up to four guests attend. Social distancing and mask-wearing will be required. In the event of stormy weather, the ceremony will be moved inside of the Cage Athletic Center and available to watch at various locations on campus.
In previous years, the ceremony has always been hosted on the Evans lawn. While the location is still being determined, if it were to be held on Evans lawn, Lindsey Taylor, dean of students, said that the ceremony will be spread across the Memorial Library and Green Hall lawns. The stage and graduates will be seated on Evans lawn, with guests on the Library and Green lawns. The road separating Green and Evans will have a jumbotron screen placed on it so that guests who are seated further back will be able to see the stage. The jumbotron was first used in the December commencement, and proved beneficial to viewing. Valhalla Stadium is also being considered. Should the ceremony be held there, it is likely that it will look similar to the December commencement, with graduates and guests being physically distanced.
“We’re hoping that the actual event will feel very much like a normal graduation ceremony,” Taylor said.
Graduates are allowed up to four guests this year. Due to social distancing guidelines, any more guests would be difficult to accommodate. Should conditions and guidelines allow it, the number may change. Graduates have received several emails from the Provost’s office regarding this. The information is also posted on the website at berry.edu/commencement.
The traditional processions and speakers will remain as they have in previous years. The reception that typically follows the ceremony, however, will likely not be held due to COVID-19 guidelines. Guests and graduates are expected to follow the same COVID-19 guidelines that are currently in place on campus. Provost Mary Boyd has said that all seating will be distanced. Guests and graduates will be expected to wear masks when watching the ceremony or when sitting near other students. The only time a graduate may remove a mask is when they are crossing the stage.
“We’ll have people remove their masks so that they’re not wearing them for photos,” Boyd said.
Moving the ceremony indoors is a decision that will be made in a worst-case scenario. The decision will be made in a last-minute call by the Provost and President Steve Briggs. Boyd says that unless there is lightning or severe rain, graduates can expect the ceremony to be held outdoors. Should the ceremony be moved inside the Cage, the number of guests a student can have will be reduced. When indoors, the amount of seating is reduced and it is difficult to distance everyone properly. In previous years, had the ceremony been moved inside, students were allowed to have three guests. Due to the pandemic this year, it’s likely that the number of indoor guests will be less than three, but it is still uncertain how many.
Regardless of if the ceremony is indoors or not, it will be live-streamed and available on YouTube for viewing. Additionally, students can view the ceremony on campus in the Krannert Ballroom, Evans Auditorium and McAllister Auditorium. The live stream will have closed captioning, and the names of the graduates will be on screen while they cross.
“Our goal is to have it as normal as possible, aside from spreading everyone out and wearing masks,” Taylor said. “We aren’t cutting anything out of the actual ceremony.”