By Annaleise Parsons | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor University recently announced the decision to have an in-person graduation ceremony with COVID-19 restrictions in place similar to those practiced at football and basketball games this academic year.
The outdoor commencement ceremony is to take place at McLane Stadium May 6-8 for both 2020 and 2021 graduates since the university has not had an in-person commencement since December 2019.
While Baylor commencement has been hosted at the Ferrell Center in the past, the limited floor space at the arena does not allow for social distancing. Instead, McLane Stadium will be used, as it provides a large amount of space for both graduates and guests to attend ceremonies.
“We’ll be able to socially distance all of the graduates … 900 to 1,000 graduates on the field for a brief ceremony,” Jason Cook, vice president of marketing and communications, said. “Even if each graduate brings six guests, for example, that would still only be 6,000 guests in a 40,000-plus seat stadium.”
Cook encourages graduates to remain “patient and understanding” as Baylor plans an outdoor ceremony. He also advises seniors to watch for communications from Baylor in order to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 protocols for commencement.
There is no limit on the number of guests that graduates can bring due to the ample space in McLane Stadium. Graduates from 2020 who are returning to walk the stage and their guests will not be required to be tested for the virus beforehand. However, 2021 graduates will already be tested due to the spring semester weekly testing for Baylor students.
“Commencement is a very important event,” Cook said. “It’s a signal of great accomplishment on the individual level and a significant opportunity to graduate from a university like Baylor.”
While the expected number of graduates hasn’t been determined yet, Baylor has received a large amount of interest and excitement about the event.
Bedford senior Madeline Pettit said she is excited to be able to graduate in a non-virtual setting given the uncertainty of the past year when it came to how events of all kinds would be held.
“I’m really excited that it’s in-person … and I’m very thankful for the work that they’re putting in to make it in-person,” Pettit said.
Graduates interested in participating in commencement should fill out the Commencement Participation form by February 26.