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UGA Moves Fall Commencement Ceremony Online

The fall 2019 commencement ceremony at Stegeman Coliseum. Credit: Dorothy Koslowski/UGA Marketing and Communications

The University of Georgia’s fall commencement ceremony for undergraduates will take place virtually on Friday, Dec. 18. 

A separate virtual graduate commencement ceremony for both fall and spring 2020 master’s and doctoral degree candidates will occur on the same day. Eligible participants will receive a mailed gift, according to a UGA press release.

According to the press release, the “difficult decision was made after extensive dialogue with faculty leaders and public health officials to address concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19 in winter months.” While UGA’s spring commencement takes place outdoors in Sanford Stadium, fall commencement takes place inside Stegeman Coliseum.

Coupled with the size of the graduating classes and social distancing requirements, the university couldn’t accommodate an in-person commencement ceremony inside Stegeman Coliseum, said UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor. The university also considered the risk of COVID-19 spread if students and their families traveled back to Athens after Thanksgiving break for a large indoor ceremony, he said. In-person classes this semester end Nov. 24.

These considerations “made it impractical to schedule multiple days of smaller indoor ceremonies in December or at a later date,” UGA Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost S. Jack Hu said in the press release. The commencement planners received input from faculty on the Educational Affairs Committee of University Council as well as physicians, epidemiologists, public health officials and other members of UGA’s Preventative Measures Advisory Board, according to the press release.

The decision came last Friday, only a week after the university held its rescheduled in-person undergraduate commencement ceremony for spring 2020 graduates in Sanford Stadium.

The university considered moving the commencement ceremony outdoors, Trevor said, but that option was rejected due to uncertain weather. 

“The weather during last year’s ceremony was 44 degrees with 2.3 inches of rain,” Trevor said. “If that situation happened again, there would be no way to execute a rain plan.” 

UGA’s decision came after the University of Florida and University of South Carolina also canceled their in-person commencement ceremonies.

“We realize that the news of a virtual commencement ceremony will be reassuring to some graduates and their families but disappointing to others, particularly the graduate and professional students whose original commencement ceremony was postponed in May,” UGA President Jere Morehead said in the press release. “However, the safety of our students and their families in this challenging time was at the forefront of this decision. Our commencement planners will now strive to find ways to celebrate the occasion that are distinctive, meaningful and memorable for our graduates.”