As the number of Salisbury University graduates awaiting an in-person commencement ceremony continues to mount, many other University System of Maryland graduates will soon finally be taking the stage in front of live audiences.
Most USM institutions outside of SU have announced plans for in-person ceremonies for spring graduates — as well as for past graduates whose ceremonies were postponed due to the pandemic — while SU nears a third consecutive virtual commencement.
Each SU academic school is scheduled to host its own personalized virtual commencement ceremony with customized slides for its graduates May 15, according to the university’s commencement website.
SU is still planning to hold an in-person “grad walk” for spring graduates to walk across a commencement stage at Sea Gull Stadium with four guests. Eight “celebration zones” will also be set up across the university’s campus for graduates to take pictures in their regalia.
University of Maryland, College Park, meanwhile, plans to hold two in-person commencement ceremonies for all 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates to accommodate social distancing, according to an online statement from UMD President Darryll Pines.
“In honor of [our students’] true determination, we have been working on a plan to give our graduates the option to attend a commencement ceremony, while still following all necessary health and safety guidelines,” Pines said.
The in-person ceremonies will be held at Capital One Field in Maryland Stadium, which typically holds a maximum capacity of 54,000 individuals, compared to Sea Gull Stadium’s total capacity of around 6,000.
Some USM institutions, however, are planning for in-person ceremonies using facilities even smaller than Sea Gull Stadium.
SU’s closest neighbor, University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, has scheduled an in-person, indoor commencement ceremony for its spring graduates in the William P. Hytche Arena, which only holds 5,500 individuals.
The arena will be admitting two guests per graduate to remain under 50% capacity and compliant with the state’s coronavirus prevention guidance announced by Gov. Larry Hogan March 12.
Using an even smaller site, Bowie State University will be hosting an in-person commencement ceremony at Bulldog Stadium, which has less than half the capacity of Sea Gull Stadium. Only graduates will be allowed to attend the ceremony.
The event will be the only in-person ceremony held on Coppin State’s campus the entire semester, according to a letter from its Office of the President.
A handful of USM schools have sided with SU, however, in deferring to the fall for potential in-person ceremonies.
Nearly identical to SU’s plans, Frostburg State University has scheduled a “grad walk experience” to graduates with guests, as well as a virtual commencement ceremony with a customized slideshow presentation.
Only the three Baltimore-based USM institutions — University of Baltimore, University of Maryland, Baltimore and University of Maryland, Baltimore County — are opting for fully virtual commencement ceremonies.
One of the areas hit hardest by COVID-19, Baltimore County has reported the state’s third-highest count of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image courtesy of Emily Ranquist.