Some college graduates will receive their diplomas — as their families cheer. Others will walk across a stage, but will hear nothing.
A survey of major Southern California universities has revealed vastly different approached to graduation this year, reflective of the current moment of the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccinations keep increasing. The case and positivity rates have declined enough to allow Los Angeles and Orange counties to move into the state’s second-least restrictive reopening phase, the orange tier. Riverside and San Bernardino counties lag a bit, but have at least moved to the second-most restrictive red tier.
But the pandemic remains a threat, with most gatherings capped at 50% capacity — at best.
As a result, each university has taken its own approach. A few will let graduates and their families attend in-person ceremonies. Many will remain virtual. Several have opted for ceremonies that lay between those extremes. And there are also universities that have said their plans are still in flux — because the state has been continually loosening restrictions.
Still, those who will get at least a touch of the traditional in-person ceremonies will likely be ecstatic. It’s better than having to get creative, like 2020 graduate Kaitlin Buxton had to do.
Buxton, who graduated with honors from Cal State Fullerton, held a socially distanced commencement on her front lawn, in Long Beach, last year. Buxton’s mother, Kim Brink, organized the celebration, and even set up a stage and had live music.
“She was so upset,” Brink said at the time. “She skipped her high school graduation to attend Fullerton’s registration day with the thought that she’d get another day to walk in a few years.”
This year, Fullerton will let graduates walk across the stage — but won’t allow an audience.
“We know that crossing the stage is an important part of Commencement,” the university said in a written message to students, “so we are excited to invite back to campus graduates for an in-person, graduate-only walk across the commencement stage.”
Here’s a round-up of how some other Southern California colleges and universities plan to celebrate the big day.
Azusa Pacific University
Azusa Pacific University will hold virtual commencement ceremonies on May 8 to recognize the spring graduating class of 2021, spokeswoman Allison Oster said. Two virtual ceremonies will take place, one at 10 a.m. for bachelor’s degree candidates and one at 3 p.m. for master’s and doctoral degree candidates. Other celebrations could be added, Oster said. Information: apu.edu/commencement.
Biola University, in La Mirada, will hold in-person “family-style” ceremonies on May 7, 8 and 10, spokeswoman Jenna Loumagne said. Each graduate can have up to five guests attend the ceremony, and each group will sit together in a “family pod” in order to maintain health and safety guidelines; face coverings will be required. The ceremonies will also be livestreamed. Information: biola.edu/commencement.
California Institute of Technology
The Pasadena university’s website says it will hold a virtual ceremony on June 11, and officials are planning for an in-person celebration for both the classes of 2020 and 2021 later this year. Information: commencement.caltech.edu.
California Lutheran University
California Lutheran University, in Thousand Oaks, will honor 2020 and 2021 graduates at drive-in, in-person ceremonies at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. An undergraduate commencement for 2021 graduates is set for 10 a.m. May 8, and a graduate and professionals commencement, also for those getting their diplomas this year, is set for 10 a.m. May 15.
The 2020 graduates, who were honored at virtual commencement ceremonies last year because of public health restrictions, will also be celebrated, but that schedule has not yet been announced.
Graduates can walk across the stage if country restrictions at the time allow it. Regardless, the events will be livestreamed for those who can’t attend. Information: callutheran.edu/commencement.
Cal Poly Pomona
Cal Poly Pomona will celebrate its 2020 and 2021 graduates with drive-in commencement ceremonies, spokeswoman Cynthia Peters said. The 20 ceremonies will be held from May 20 to 23 at the Pomona Fairplex.
Virtual ceremonies will also take place May 29 and Sunday, May 30. Information: cpp.edu/commencement/index.shtml.
California State Dominguez Hills
Cal State Dominguez Hills will host hybrid commencement ceremonies from May 24 to 27 at Dignity Health Sports Park’s tennis stadium, which 2020 and 2021 graduates can attend in-person. A small group of university representatives, including the Academic Senate chair, representing faculty, the president and cabinet, and respective deans, will be the only people in attendance with the students. The ceremonies will be livestreamed. Information: csudh.edu/commencement.
California State Fullerton
Cal State Fullerton will offer virtual commencement ceremonies on June 11 and graduates will be able to walk across the stage in-person — with no guests — starting June 12. The stage walks will be livestreamed for friends and family to watch at home. Information: fullerton.edu/commencement.
California State Long Beach
Cal State Long Beach will hold in-person commencement ceremonies at Angel Stadium, in Anaheim, from May 28 to 31. To comply with coronavirus restrictions, CSULB will require graduates to have tickets to attend, and they must stay in their seats throughout the program; guests, including family members, cannot attend in-person but may watch from the parking lot. The ceremonies will not include a processional, recessional or walking the stage. Information: csulb.edu/commencement.
California State Los Angeles
Cal State LA officials are exploring outdoor locations for an in-person commencement, President William A. Covino said in a statement, but they have not yet determined a site. Any in-person event would have significant restrictions on attendance and activity, Covino wrote. With or without an in-person event, though, Cal State LA will offer a virtual commencement. Information: calstatela.edu/commencement.
California State Northridge
CSUN will host a university-wide virtual commencement on May 15 for 2020 and 2021 graduates, as well as virtual ceremonies for individual colleges from May 21 to 24. Because the university doesn’t have access to a large enough venue in the San Fernando Valley, it can’t have a regular in-person ceremony, Dean of Students William Watkins, who is also president of Student Affairs, said in a Friday evening announcement. But the university, he wrote, will host a series of “in-care Commencement Parades” from May 25 to 28. Information: csun.edu/commencement.
California State San Bernardino
Representatives for Cal State San Bernardino did not respond to a request for comment on the university’s commencement plans, but the college’s website said CSUSB will hold virtual ceremonies on May 22, with in-person celebrations at a later date. Information: csusb.edu/commencement.
Chapman will hold in-person ceremonies from July 30 to Aug. 1 and from Aug. 6 to 8. Due to restrictions on large gatherings, spokeswoman Amy Stevens said, the university will not hold a university-wide event, but each college will hold a ceremony. Graduates will be able to walk across the stage, and there will be no limit on the number of guests graduates can invite — but every attendee will need a ticket. Seats will be spaced 6 feet apart, and hand-sanitizing stations will be available. Masks will also be required for all attendees. Information: chapman.edu/students/academic-resources/graduation/index.aspx.
Concordia University Irvine
Concordia University Irvine’s commencement will be on May 8. Students and a limited number of family members will participate in a “walk through” celebration on campus, spokeswoman Ann Ashmon said, while maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings. Graduates will be able to walk across a stage, receive their diploma cover, have a picture taken with an administrator and then proceed along an outdoor route to a “celebration area” on campus. The events will also be livestreamed. Information: cui.edu/studentlife/registrar/graduation.
Harvey Mudd College
Harvey Mudd, in Claremont, plans to hold celebratory events online this spring for 2021 graduates, spokeswoman Judy Augsburger said, but will wait until everyone can gather on campus to hold the official commencement ceremony. The college tentatively plans to hold an in-person commencement for the class of 2021 during the spring of 2022. Harvey Mudd hmc.edu/student-life/commencement.
Loma Linda University
Loma Linda University will honor its graduates with ceremonies from May 28 to 30 and from June 11 to 14, said spokeswoman Kelsey Tyree Culler. The ceremonies will be conducted as drive-thrus, with one vehicle per graduate. Information: home.llu.edu/education/commencement.
Occidental College, in Los Angeles, will offer an outdoor, in-person ceremony in its Hillside Theater at 10 a.m. May 16, but only only graduates can attend; the ceremony will be livestreamed for family and friends. Safety protocols, including mask wearing and social distancing, will be enforced, President Harry J. Elam Jr. said in a statement. All other commencement weekend events, including cultural graduations, will be virtual. Information: oxy.edu/commencement.
Pitzer College, in Claremont, will hold a virtual ceremony on May 15, spokesman Jim Marchant said, and further details, including the keynote speaker, will be announced in the coming weeks. Even as restrictions are starting to loosen, Marchant said, the college will not consider a hybrid or in-person event because some students live out-of-state and would not be able to attend. Information: pitzer.edu/commencement.
Pomona College’s 2021 commencement exercises will be held virtually on June 6, said spokeswoman Patricia Vest, and the college is also planning for a special in-person celebration in May or June 2022. Information: pomona.edu/commencement.
UCI will host virtual ceremonies on June 12 and will offer graduates the opportunity to have an in-person, student-only “stage moment” and photo opportunity following the ceremonies; the “stage moment” will be livestreamed. Details on those in-person opportunities are still being finalized. Information: commencement.uci.edu.
Representatives for UCLA did not respond to a request for comment on the university’s commencement plans and the college’s website says, “Information on UCLA Commencement 2021 will be posted when available.” Information: commencement.ucla.edu.
UC Riverside spokesman Johnny Cruz said the university has not yet made final decisions on commencement plans. The college’s website said ceremonies are scheduled for June 11 to 13 and that further details are forthcoming. Information: commencement.ucr.edu.
University of La Verne
The University of La Verne has scheduled virtual ceremonies, spokeswoman Alexandra Clayton said, with times yet to be determined. The commencement committee is also exploring additional activities as permitted by public health agencies. Information: laverne.edu/commencement.
University of Redlands
The University of Redlands will hold virtual ceremonies for graduates from April 29 to May 2. Information: redlands.edu/study/registrars-office/commencement-weekend-2021.
University of Southern California
USC will host virtual celebrations for graduates on May 13 and in-person ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from May 14 to 25. Graduates will be able to bring up to two guests and have the opportunity to walk across the stage, hear their names announced, receive their diploma covers and have photos taken. The ceremonies will also be livestreamed. Information: commencement.usc.edu.
Whittier College announced this week that it is planning a traditional in-person commencement for the fall and is seeking input from the college community for a limited in-person celebration in May. Some of the current restrictions for an in-person event, according to the college’s announcement, would include capping capacity at 20%, ticketing the event and requiring every guest to live within a 120-mile radius. Whittier College is also organizing a virtual commencement that will include all graduates and will be streamed online on May 21. Information: whittier.edu/commencement.
Source: Orange County Register