Area colleges taking different approaches to commencements

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Colleges around the region are taking different approaches when it comes to commencement ceremonies.

The University of Vermont and Norwich University are allowing graduates to have two fully vaccinated guests attend the in-person ceremony. Masking, distancing and other protocols will be in place. Neither Dartmouth nor Middlebury Colleges are allowing graduates to have guests and are limiting in-person ceremonies to graduating seniors. NVU Johnson and Lyndon are having their ceremonies all online. Officials say the virtual ceremony is the safest and most equitable solution. And Saint Michael’s College is still seeking clarity on state guidance as to whether the reopening plan would apply to its commencement ceremony, with the hopes of allowing fully vaccinated guests to attend.

Meanwhile, graduations are getting the greenlight in New York. Kelly O’Brien went to SUNY-Plattsburgh to see how that news is being received on campus.

As the school year comes to a close, seniors like Jesse Tefft are reflecting. “Honestly, I’ve had a really good time. The classes have been hard but they’ve provided me with a lot of very good, real-world experiences,” Tefft said.

COVID left the fate of graduations up in the air. Students last sprig were unable to walk to receive their diplomas and instead took part in virtual commencements. “I was friends with a lot of graduating seniors last spring and I know how heartbroken they were,” Tefft said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday announced schools can hold graduations in person but they will need to follow COVID regulations, something students like Alexandra Perez do not seem to mind. “It means the world, honestly, because you work so hard for four years and you look forward to your graduation,” she said.

“I mean this is something I’ve really been working hard for, so being able to actually fully see it through is something that means a lot to me,” Tefft said.

May 15th is graduation day at SUNY-Plattsburgh. The school will hold six separate ceremonies throughout the day at two-hour intervals. At 6 p.m., there will be a virtual option for students who could not or did not want to attend in person. “More of a personal, intimate type thing, I think it works given the current climate,” Tefft said.

Students will need proof of vaccination -- which was offered at the school -- or proof of a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to walking, and everyone must adhere to masking and social distancing guidelines. “That’s perfectly fine with me, if that means we all get to graduate in-person, I will do anything,” Perez said.

The school is still working to see if there is a way to fit in faculty. Families will not be able to attend, but they can watch by livestream. “They are going to come to my dorm actually, they are staying in Lake Placid and they are going to come here and watch it on my computer,” Perez said. While not the ideal situation for their graduation day, she says she’s happy to experience it together. “It means a lot to us, just to wear our cap and gown with our friends.”

The school’s plans are based on current COVID case numbers and officials say that they are subject to change.

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