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USF to hold in-person spring commencement

President Steven Currall announced Monday afternoon that in-person spring graduation ceremonies will be held with required face coverings, limited capacity of two guests per student and a livestream for those who cannot attend. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The USF spring 2021 graduation ceremonies will be held in person at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg with a limited capacity of two guests per graduate and required face coverings.

In an email announcement Monday afternoon, President Steven Currall said the 2021 spring commencement will be held in person with COVID-19 mitigation protocols such as physical distancing and a limit on guests. The decision was made in accordance with the Board of Governors for the State University System, according to Currall.

“A few weeks ago, the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida released its Blueprint for Spring Semester 2021 Commencements allowing us to bring our spring 2021 graduates together for an in-person ceremony,” he said.

The ceremonies will be held May 7-9 for students from all three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee. Information on how to obtain guest tickets has yet to be announced. For those who cannot attend, the event will be livestreamed.

“To maintain safe physical distancing, students will be permitted to bring two guests to the ceremony,” Currall said. “Every guest must be preregistered in advance of the ceremony. Ceremonies will be livestreamed for guests who are unable to attend.”

Graduates are required to preregister by April 5. Based on the number of registrations, administration will decide how many ceremonies will need to be held. The number of ceremonies will be announced April 9.

Ticketing details are still being finalized, according to Currall, but any graduate who registers before April 5 is guaranteed two guest tickets.

“Because of the nature of this semester’s commencement, there will be no day-of registrations or walk-ups allowed — no exceptions,” Currall said. “Students who do not register by April 5 will not be permitted to attend commencement.”

Graduates and guests are also expected to wear face coverings at all times during the ceremony, including attendees who have already received the vaccine, according to Currall.

He said students will not be walking across the stage during the event and names will not be announced in an effort to prevent transmission. Doctoral students will not be officially hooded during the ceremony. Instead, they will wear their hoods throughout the event to reduce close contact.

Attendees will not be allowed to bring bags into the stadium in order to enhance security, but “exemptions will be made for medical purposes and child care,” according to Currall.

He also said students will not be able to take graduation photos on stage or at the ceremonies, but will be provided opportunities to take photos on their campuses in the weeks leading up to the event.

“We recognize you want to experience the celebratory moment of having your official commencement photo taken,” Currall said.

“As such, graduates will be given the opportunity to have this experience on their campus in the weeks prior to commencement, which will include the traditional formal portrait and special photos taken at quintessential spots on campus. GradImages, the university’s official commencement photographers, will be on campus during this event to capture this celebration of your academic achievements. We will share more details soon, including dates and times for each campus and how to register.”

Although this semester’s graduates will have an in-person ceremony, Currall said administration is planning to host make-up ceremonies for spring, summer and fall 2020.

“While this semester’s commencement is limited to spring 2021 graduates, we hope to host you and your families at a more traditional commencement later this year, once we are able to reduce COVID-19 restrictions,” he said.

“A make-up date for 2020 commencement is still being determined, and we will continue to be guided by state and local officials and public health experts on how to best conduct our ceremonies.”

This is a developing story. Stay with The Oracle for more updates.