The limited-scale in-person ceremonies will be offered from June 10–13, with a virtual alternative available
On April 16, Chancellor May announced that UC Davis will be holding in-person commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021. Students will have to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to the ceremony.
May said that the limited in-person graduation ceremonies are a first step toward a return to normalcy, and that they are reliant on Yolo County achieving yellow tier status. As of April 19, Yolo county is in the orange, or “Moderate” tier. There will still be safety regulations in place in addition to needing proof of vaccination or a negative test—masks will be required except during the photo op, for instance.
“The biggest difference is it will be all outdoors,” May said. “There will just be a procession—there won’t be a speaker or much of a ritual in the event.”
Graduates will line up six feet apart to receive their stand-in diplomas from May or Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan on stage.
Each graduate will be allowed to bring two guests to walk alongside them through a series of tents leading up to the stage. All guests must bring a completed vaccination card.
“Any[one] from outside of the state of California, under the California Department of Public Health rules, must show proof of vaccination,” said Karl Engelbach, the chief of staff to the Chancellor.
Jazleen Nijjar, a fourth-year biological psychology major, said she is glad to have an in-person ceremony, but that she empathizes with the class of 2020 who lost out on the experience. She plans to attend the in-person ceremony with her parents once they receive the vaccine.
“It’s honestly bittersweet,” Nijjar said. “I know [the administration] is trying to be as rational as possible [by] allowing people to come with vaccination cards. It’s not the best solution, but it does give my mom and dad the opportunity to see me graduate since I am first-gen.”
Those who aren’t able to get vaccinated can watch the event via a live stream.
May said the spring graduation plans were made in consultation with ASUCD and Graduate Student Association (GSA) leadership, but that the in-person plans are subject to change based on Yolo county and state guidelines.
“When we looked at what we were going to do for spring commencement, we consulted with students as well,” said Dana Topousis, the chief marketing and communications officer. “We did want to make sure we heard from students, both undergraduate and graduate.”
In lieu of a handshake when graduates receive their diploma, Whitney Smith, the ceremonies and special events director, suggested that graduates and the Chancellor exchange a special Aggie hand signal.
“We need an Aggie sign,” Smith said. “Maybe we could start that this year.”
May encourages students to get creative with their celebratory exchanges and gestures.
“I’m up for anything safe that the students might want to do as they walk by,” May said.
Smith said they are hoping to make the event exciting while still abiding by safety protocols.
“There will be a lot of photo opportunities for students and guests as they are waiting in line,” Smith said.
There will also be a Cal Aggie Alumni Association booth where recent graduates can briefly celebrate their new alumni status.
“We are trying to make it as fun as possible without encouraging a lot of mixing of households and mingling,” Smith said.
As of April 16, anyone 16 and over is now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
May, who received the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020, is mostly worried about accommodating the demand of guests, as well as withstanding the summer heat in a gown.
“I’m not concerned about being in-person,” May said. “I am worried about what kind of demand we’ll have and being able to accommodate the demand, and standing outside in the hot robe.”
“And the robes are very hot,” Engelbach said.
By REBECCA GARDNER — firstname.lastname@example.org