Apr 9, 2021 | NEWS | By Esteban Candelaria, Lorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell | Photo by Bibi Powers

This report originally appeared in the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project, a twice-weekly newsletter partnered with The Catalyst that covers the pandemic’s effect on higher education. For more COVID updates delivered straight to your inbox by CC student-journalists, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter here.

🎓 May Commencement — this year it’s happening (twice).

After months of planning, Colorado College leadership released its plans for in-person Commencement ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021.

Director of College Events Brenda Soto said that the process for planning in-person graduations started back in October.

“It’s been a really long haul to get where we are,” Soto told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “It was really important to the students to be able to have an in-person commencement, so that’s where I pushed the hardest … to be able to do this.”

Both ceremonies will be held outdoors on the Weidner Field, a stadium in downtown Colorado Springs used by the Switchbacks Football Club. For the class of 2020, commencement will be held May 30, and the ceremony for the class of 2021 will occur a week earlier on May 23.

Colorado College has established several safety protocols in accordance with El Paso County public health guidelines to prevent the transmission of the virus. For Soto, “not being the event that causes a super spreader event” was among her biggest concerns for the ceremonies.

First, both events will require all graduates to be tested on campus two days before their respective ceremonies and receive negative results from those tests. Graduates will also be required to receive a check for symptoms and temperatures before lining up for graduation ceremonies.

Each graduate will be given two tickets for guests to attend, whom the college has requested to get a COVID-19 test before the event at a local testing center.

“Although we’re feeling better about where we are with COVID and the vaccines and the summertime here in Colorado Springs, we’ll continue to adhere to many protocols that we are familiar with,” Vice President for Information Technology Brian Young said in a video released with the announcement.

The college has required that attendees wear masks at the ceremonies and has asked them to remain socially distanced from others, use hand sanitizer, and refrain from shaking hands.

For students who don’t feel comfortable attending an in-person graduation, CC is in the process of getting an app in which students will be able to take a photo of themselves and have their name and degree appear in the photo when their name is called, Soto said.

What’s happening with other graduation-related festivities?

While May Commencement ceremonies are being held in person, other related events will be hosted in virtual formats or will not take place this year.

For example, CC will be holding its annual Honors Convocation in a May 11 webinar, and the Baccalaureate address and the honorary degree ceremony will be pre-recorded and delivered virtually when they become available.

Departmental receptions and the President’s Reception will not be held this year due to public health recommendations.

“We’ll encourage families to gather in small groups of friends and family, encourage outdoor activity as much as possible, and encourage you to spend your time with your graduate — your son or daughter, your friend, your neighbor — in a way that is safe and COVID free,” Young said.

Things to remember

In the announcement, Young emphasized that plans change, and that the college will continue to monitor the pandemic alongside local and state health partners to ensure that CC is adhering to all protocols and procedures.

The college’s announcement also noted that because the graduation ceremonies will be held outdoors, backup plans for indoor gatherings have not been made in case weather interferes with the events.

Young thus urged attendees to watch for an official invitation to the Commencement ceremonies, as well as for updates on the events.

“All things considered, we are pleased to be able to have an in-person graduation ceremony, pleased to be able to have you join us, pleased that you will continue to help us follow all the protocols and procedures,” Young said.

About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is created by Colorado College student journalists Esteban CandelariaLorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell in partnership with The Catalyst, Colorado College’s student newspaper. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear every Monday.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

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