After more than 1,300 colleges and universities in the United States were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020, according to the National Conference of Legislators, the University of Indianapolis will return to an in-person graduation. Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli said that hopefully the university will be getting back to where it was before COVID-19 and one way by doing so is by bringing in person-graduation back.
“That’s the last time that we had an in-person graduation [in 2019], and the year after that we had a virtual graduation, and then last year we had the graduation parade where people for the most part stayed in their cars,” Vitangeli said. “This will be the first time that the entire community and families will be able to gather in person…. Moving to an outdoor graduation allows us to have unlimited guests, allows us the safety of having fresh air outside, not being confined to an indoor space and just really get[ting] back to having that true sense of you and the community.”
Vitangeli said when planning an outdoor event, weather is going to be a risk factor. The UIndy president’s cabinet, which is made up of the president and vice presidents, the faculty senate, Student Leadership and Activities Board (SLAB) and the COVID-19 Task Force all had a conversation to decide what the 2022 commencement ceremony was going to look like and Vitangeli said they are all prepared.
“We’ve had outdoor and indoor, but when you go indoor, you have to have multiple ceremonies because we can’t accommodate everybody,” Vitangeli said. “The hope is that we can just do one ceremony, have everybody that’s graduating [able to] graduate and be outdoors. Obviously, weather is dependent upon what we do, but we’ll make the call early that morning of commencement as to whether or not we’re gonna be inside based on weather. The hope is that we’ll be able to stay outside and have the ceremony.”
Vitangeli said that if weather does not permit for graduation to take place outside, then students will only be allowed to have four tickets per graduate for the indoor ceremony. For the students who have a larger family, graduation will be live-streamed so people who were not able to attend would be able to watch the ceremony take place.
Another factor that plays into graduation is the length of the procession. Vitangeli said that the student arrangement will include students sitting by their school starting with doctorates first. Vitangeli mentioned that having the most efficient ceremony will be key to this graduation.
“We’re talking about having two readers up on stage to read names, instead of one, to try to get through those names quicker…. That’s our goal right now. We’re meeting on a weekly basis, we have a commencement planning committee … to talk about ‘Now that we’ve made the decision to be outdoors, how do we make sure that it is an efficient ceremony where people feel like, again, they’re not sitting there for hours and hours?”
University Events is going to be one of the many groups that will help with graduation day, and so far they have already taken care of a few things. Director of University Events, Jeffery Barnes said that they are still working on the logistics of getting the stage and the chairs rented as well, since UIndy does not have a stage that is big enough. University Events staff will have both the outdoor and indoor spaces set up days before the event to make sure that there is no rush last minute.
“My team and I will be … making sure that everything looks the way that it’s supposed to look and that all the pieces are in place so that everyone else can do their job and people can come in and have a great graduation experience …,” Barnes said. “Lots of different people are monitoring the weather leading up to that [the day of graduation] and we have to plan an outdoor event with an indoor backup plan. So we’ll have both set up a few days in advance.”
So far the plan is to move forward with the outdoor ceremony and then on the morning of commencement, if necessary due to weather, the call would be made to then have it indoors, Barnes said. He said everyone is excited about being able to do graduation outdoors together again as one big ceremony.