The university announced dates and times for commencement ceremonies and plans to proceed with previously announced COVID-19 safety procedures despite student dissatisfaction and petitions.
“The safety of all graduates, guests and our entire Mean Green community is our top concern,” Jim Berscheidt, Vice President for University Brand Strategy and Communications, said. “There is risk involved with all in-person events during this time, and UNT’s current commencement format reduces the risk to a level we are most comfortable with, and it doesn’t result in a need to test every attendee.”
A petition was created to ask the university to institute role calling during the commencement ceremonies while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. It has over 360 signatures at the time of print.
“The coronavirus pandemic has taxed each student in our own way, and we have had to give up much of the college experience,” Petition organizer Caitlin Kydd said. “Now, the university is asking us to give up one of the most precious rites of passage.”
Berscheidt responded by acknowledging the importance of crossing the stage and said the university looks forward to when it can return the tradition to future ceremonies. He told the North Texas Daily that the decision to restrict verbal recognition to virtual ceremonies allowed an inclusive experience for at-risk graduates and their families who may be unable to attend an in-person experience.
“We appreciate the recommendations provided by petition organizers, but the decision to proceed in this way was made several weeks ago so that planning and coordination could begin,” Berscheidt said.
Spring 2021 graduation ceremonies will follow the same model as fall 2020. Two kinds of events will be held for graduates throughout April 30 and May 1. Virtual college recognition ceremonies hosted by college deans will premiere on YouTube and in-person commencement ceremonies will be held at Apogee Stadium.
The schedule of in-person ceremonies by college is as follows:
- 10 a.m., April 30 –– In-person commencement for College of Health and Public Service, College of Information, College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, College of Visual Arts and Design and New College.
- 7 p.m., April 30 –– In-person commencement for College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
- 10 a.m., May 1 –– In-person commencement for College of Engineering, College of Science and College of Education
- 7 p.m., May 1 –– In-person commencement for College of Music, G. Brint Ryan College of Business and Toulouse Graduate School (Interdisciplinary Studies and Advanced Data Analytics candidates)
The schedule of virtual ceremonies by college is as follows:
- 1 p.m., April 30 –– College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
- 2 p.m., April 30 –– College of Music
- 3 p.m., April 30 –– College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism and College of Visual Arts and Design
- 4 p.m., April 30 –– College of Health and Public Service, College of Information and New College
- 1 p.m., May 1 –– G. Brint Ryan College of Business
- 2 p.m., May 1 –– Doctoral and Master’s, all colleges
- 3 p.m., May 1 –– College of Engineering and College of Science
- 4 p.m., May 1 –– College of Education
The virtual recognition ceremonies will include remarks made by the college deans. Graduates’ names will be read aloud and displayed, along with their degree, Latin Honors and major professor, if applicable. Students have until March 31 to submit pronunciation instructions.
In-person commencement ceremonies include a conferral of degrees by President Neal Smatresk, remarks from university administration and the turning of graduates’ tassels and rings. Participation is limited to graduates who RSVP by a deadline that has not been announced yet and each student can claim up to four guest tickets.
Seating is preassigned to maintain social distancing and face coverings are required at all times. Disposable masks will be provided as needed. The event will be live streamed for those unable to attend. Verbal recognition of the graduates’ names will not occur at commencement. Students will not be able to cross the stage either.
Graduates are required to wear official university regalia. If purchasing or renting regalia through the bookstore, students planning on attending in-person ceremonies need to submit orders by March 29. Low-income and first-generation students may be eligible for the Mean Green Gowns for Grads program, where graduates can receive a free rental of caps and gowns, as well as a free graduation photo session.
Featured Image: In-person commencement ceremonies will be taking place at Apogee Stadium starting April 30, 2021. Image by John Anderson