Recent adjustments for the 2021 commencement ceremonies have brought a new set of challenges for the university, said Ellen Treanor, the media representative for Cal State Fullerton, in an email to the Daily Titan.
Chi-Chung Keung, director of news media services for the university, said that CSUF’s events team in University Advancement is responsible for the development of infrastructure and logistics.
The execution of the event in terms of format, content and eligibility, however, will ultimately fall on the university’s cabinet’s hands, requiring many committee meetings and cross-divisional collaboration across university officials, Keung said.
For both the classes of 2020 and 2021, there are about 24,000 students who are eligible to participate at the in-person commencement ceremonies, Keung said, with each participant now allowed to bring two guests.
Keung said the ceremonies will take place on the intramural field at 33% capacity, or about 5,016 people.
The university has released several updates to graduating students with information regarding the event. There is still information that is being released as time gets closer to the May 14 registration deadline for the in-person ceremony.
The California State University chancellor’s office has had the plans reported to them, said Keung, with all campuses receiving guidance from state and local health agencies.
According to the State of California Health and Human Services Agency in the California Department of Public Health, there are requirements for all in-person commencement ceremonies across all COVID-19 tiers, as well as guidance for screening, individual control, entering and exiting the event and event procedures.
These guidelines indicate that if multiple commencement ceremonies take place within the same day that they must take place two hours apart.
According to the guidelines, individuals should be six feet apart at all times, with the requirement of no handshakes, as well as limiting the exchanging of materials such as throwing graduation caps.
The guidelines suggest graduates turn their tassel in lieu of receiving their diploma. The universities could choose to distribute diplomas if done in a safe manner, with table placement of diplomas or sanitation between distribution.
Keung said that typically graduates receive a certificate of participation at commencement ceremonies, but in order to comply with guidelines, the university will not be handing out any certification during the 2021 stage walks.
More information for the event has been added to the commencement website, including an update on commencement being a standing-only event, with suggestions for guests to wear comfortable footwear for the estimated two to three-hour ceremony.
“There are many factors that went into the decision to create a standing-only event,” Keung said. “Length of time that each graduate and guest is in the event space, the cost of staffing to require to sanitize chairs between each usage, and infrastructure required to keep event attendees distanced.”
Guests with disabilities will be accommodated through the Disability Support Services and will have a formal request process for guests and graduates who need accommodations, Keung said.
Due to estimated weather conditions during June, Keung said that there will be tents at the check-in area with temporary seating to wait until it’s time for guests to line-up on the field.
The line-up on the field will also be shaded with bottled water available to guests, he said.
Keung said there will be a waiting area with “pods” of three seats spaced six feet apart and a line-up with painted spaces on the field so guests and graduates are distanced on all sides.
“As we typically do for commencement, we will have a tented area close to Student Health and Counseling Center that will have temporary seating, cooling packs and water for anyone who feels overcome by the heat. We also will have medic teams and an ambulance on standby to handle any medical emergencies,” Keung said.
There are currently no plans to require testing nor COVID-19 vaccine records for commencement participation, Keung said, but guests and graduates will still be required to wear a mask at all times.
However, graduates will be allowed to remove their masks during their walk across the stage and during photos, he said.
Faculty has also been invited to volunteer for the event and assist during the arrivals and line-up, Keung said, but there will be no on-stage platform for faculty as all speeches will be conducted during the virtual ceremony.
The in-person commencement ceremonies will take place from June 12 to 15. Graduates and guests will check-in for the event at the Titan Track, but the check-in process is still in development because of the addition of guests, Keung said.
“The current plan is to wait until registration closes on May 14 and then determine the final participation numbers for each ceremony. Once that is determined the graduates will be given staggered arrival times to minimize the wait times and ensure proper distancing at the check-in area,” Keung said.