Dear Class of 2020 and 2021,
I have wonderful news concerning the 2021 and 2020 Commencement Exercises. The Virginia Department of Health and Governor Ralph Northam issued new guidance on graduations for the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commencement ceremonies are no longer classified as social gatherings, which means colleges and universities in Virginia may plan in-person Commencement ceremonies as long as we adhere to specific health and safety measures designed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Please keep in mind that safety restrictions can change at anytime, depending on the rate of transmission and other factors in Virginia.
We have the green light, for now, to make plans for your graduation based on guidance that will be in place on April 1, 2021. However, the new guidelines apply only to graduation ceremonies scheduled for May 1 and later. UVA Wise Commencements are planned for May 8 at 11 a.m. for the Class of 2021 and May 9 at 1 p.m. for the Class of 2020.
The new requirements allow us to hold Commencement at Carl Smith Stadium based on 30 percent of facility capacity. This allows us to bring 1,170 people, including graduates, faculty, Commencement staff, and guests into the stadium. Graduates will receive tickets to admit four guests. Families may sit together but must be separated by six feet from others, and the same goes for graduates, faculty, and those in the platform party. As you can see, it is not an easy task. Our staff is already working on the spacing logistics and the Commencement Committee is meeting weekly.
In coming weeks, more information will be released regarding specific steps we must take to make this day special for you and your families. We ask that each of you adhere to the health requirements that will be in place, which includes facemasks, social distancing, and rules regarding entering and exiting the stadium in a safe manner. Details will be released soon on those matters as we receive additional information from the Virginia Department of Health.
I am thrilled at the opportunity to offer an in-person Commencement. You worked hard to earn your degree, and we know how important the day is for you and your families. The goal at UVA Wise is to see our graduates walk across the stage to celebrate this major milestone. Our faculty, staff, and I look forward to Commencement each year. We get to know you while you are on campus. You become members of our families. Commencement is a joyous day for us as well, and we are so happy at the prospect of celebrating, at a distance, with you.
But while planning is underway and the excitement is real, we want to caution each of you that COVID-19 is still a major issue in the United States and the rest of the world. We all must remain vigilant in order to stay safe from the virus. We have been given a wonderful opportunity to plan your Commencement ceremony, and we truly hope the Virginia guidelines do not change in coming weeks.
As for now, let’s enjoy the planning and preparation that comes with Commencement and start the official countdown to May 8 and May 9. Commencement for the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 will be ceremonies to remember. Each of you are part of history now, and we will do all we can to make the ceremonies memorable and special.
Donna P. Henry