How College Graduation Commencements plans spring forward during the pandemic

Chautauqua County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As the rate of the COVID vaccine rollout continues to increase, colleges around Buffalo have their own ideas for the Class of 2021’s college graduation ceremony during the pandemic.

Even with the increased amount of COVID vaccines being distributed throughout Western New York, some colleges and universities are finding it difficult to make an in-person graduation decision. 

SUNY Fredonia has decided to have a virtual graduation this May, compiling all the aspects of a normal graduation into a video that will be released on Commencement as they did last spring. 

Dr. Stephen H. Kolison, President of Fredonia, decided that the graduation is not worth the risk of having a ‘super spreader event’.

Lylens Lubin, the Senior Class President at Fredonia, advocated to get the students involved in their own graduation video.

“If we were to have an in-person aspect in any way, it had to be centered around the students,” Lubin said. “I think walking the stage is the most glorified moment a college student can have during graduation and we just wanted to make sure that we got that.” 

Graduating students have the opportunity to walk the stage with their friends in April, which will be recorded and live-streamed for families at home to see. 

“This is not about taking the easy way out of anything, I think safety is the number one job for our students,” says Dr. Kolison.

However, some local colleges, like the University at Buffalo, believe they have enough resources and COVID safety protocols to hold in-person commencement ceremonies this year. 

“We’ve had a commencement committee, commencement coordinators of all the academic units participate in planning,” said John DellaContrada, University at Buffalo’s Vice President of Communications. “We’ve watched closely at the prevalence rate in Western New York, we’ve had a very low prevalence of the virus on our campus so those were the two main factors.”

The University has decided to continue to hold 17 commencements, in person, with socially distanced guidelines and outdoor seating. The school believes they have enough resources and outdoor space to hold commencement safely. 

The University has still yet to announce if parents and guests will be allowed at the outdoor ceremonies.

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