Commencement pushed forward

Only graduates will attend in person given social distancing guidelines

by emma stevens, staff writer
Photo courtesy of
With several changes, this year’s ceremony will look different with the
most prominent change being that family will not be allowed to be present.

On Feb. 2,  the Commencement Committee announced that the Spring 2021 Commencement proceedings will occur earlier than originally scheduled and will be taking place in a unique format to accommodate the current COVID-19 restrictions. 

Four different commencement ceremonies will take place in the Cintas Center over the course of Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9. The ceremonies are divided by the four different colleges that make up Xavier University: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Sciences and the Williams College of Business. 

The health and safety of graduates is a chief concern of the Commencement Committee in planning the Spring Commencement. 

As it stands now, students will not be allowed to bring a guest to attend the ceremony in person, but it will be livestreamed for family and friends to safely view the event and share in their graduate’s experience.

However, the Commencement Committee shares on the Xavier University website that if circumstances should change and CDC and state/local guidelines allow us to safely include guests, we will extend the option for graduates to invite 1-2 guests.

Concerns surrounding COVID-19 also played a large role in the date change for the ceremonies. The Commencement Committee Co-Chairs Whitney Costner and Dr. Leah Busam, shared that their concerns for student safety took precedence in changing the date.

  “Our primary reason for hosting Commencement the weekend of May 8 and 9 is to allow students to depart campus as soon as possible after classes end,” said Busam. “This allows us to de-densify the campus sooner, which helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and allows students to begin their next steps as soon as possible”. 

Aside from the festivities of Senior Week, the extra week of time between the end of finals week and graduation was an antiquated aspect of the calendar that used to be necessary to verify student eligibility and prepare diplomas, but said time is not needed in order to prepare for the event.  

Though many changes needed to be made to the traditional Commencement Ceremony to abide by COVID-19 protocols, many aspects of these changed ceremonies were designed to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for graduates. 

The decision to separate the ceremonies by college was deeply informed by student opinion. “One of the most clear and consistent student recommendations was to host smaller ceremonies by college,” Costner and Busam said. 

To best capture the opinions of graduates, Costner and Busam sent out a survey in October to all students who graduated in August 2020 or were expected to graduate in December 2020 or May 2021.  

According to Costner and Busam, “More than 1300 students who responded to the survey resoundingly supported the recommendation for multiple in-person ceremonies by college.”

Having the ceremonies separated in this way allows students to enjoy their graduation experience surrounded by the individuals with whom they shared most of their classroom time. Dividing the ceremonies by college also allows for some aspects of the ceremony to be tailored to the specific programs. 

“At each ceremony we will have both a graduate and undergraduate student speaker from each college rather than a single student speaker,” said Costner and Busam “We will also be able to honor distinguished alumni with connections to each college as part of each ceremony”. 

The Commencement Committee is excited to host these unique ceremonies and celebrate the many graduates who attend. More information on Commencement or any changes to the events between now and the weekend of Commencement will be announced on the Xavier University website.