Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern’s postponed May 2020 graduation ceremony is set to occur on August 9, 2020, and will be held in the Iles P.E. Center located on Southern’s campus.
According to the graduation page on Southern’s website, to accommodate for social distancing guidelines, there will be three consecutive services at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Each graduate has been granted a maximum of four reserved seats for guests, and registration to attend the in-person ceremonies is now closed.
Upon arrival, at least one person from the attending party must show his or her e-Ticket to enter the building as stated on the website. Additionally, photo ID of either a driver’s license or a Southern ID will be required to aid with security regulations, and masks must be worn throughout the entirety of the program.
According to Academic Administrative Assistant and Graduation Coordinator Eve Knight, there will also be a temperature-check station that everyone will need to go through to be allowed into the gym. A wristband will be given to each individual to indicate that they’ve been cleared. Of all the guidelines for the ceremony, Knight said the most emphasized is to abide by social distancing policies.
“We are asking everyone to maintain their physical distance from other family groups if they are waiting outside prior to or after their program, and that all attendees remain in their seats during the program,” Knight said. “At the end of the program, guests will be dismissed by rows to exit out the side doors of the gym. We are asking the guests and their graduates to meet at one of their vehicles after the program in order to facilitate appropriate distancing outside after the program.”
In a poll conducted on the Accent’s Instagram account, 37 respondents said they will be attending the in-person graduation ceremony while 119 said they will not. Clinical psychology graduating senior Shirali Pathak said that despite the fears of larger events amidst COVID-19, she still plans to participate in the ceremony.
“I chose to attend the in-person ceremony because we don’t know what the future holds,” Pathak said. “I’m starting my master’s in the fall. And with how the world looks, this could possibly be the only opportunity I have left to walk. So, I decided to take it.”
Mass communication graduating senior Tierra Hayes credits the rising Hamilton County cases and not wanting to unnecessarily expose her family members to COVID-19 as her reasons for refraining from participating on Aug 9. She said that while she knows some of her classmates are planning to walk and she is happy for them, it just wasn’t the right choice for her.
“I just don’t think I could justify bringing my family – some with prior health conditions – hours away to be in an enclosed space for an extended period of time just to watch me walk into the gym and across the stage,” Hayes said. “I got my diploma in the mail, and I feel that I have gotten the closure I’ve needed for my college years.”
According to Knight, there are 72 graduates signed up for 9 a.m., 93 signed up for 1 p.m. and 49 signed up for 4 p.m., which equates to 214 out of a total of 485 graduates. With roughly 44 percent of graduates participating in the services, Knight said that while these are the sign-up numbers, she can’t predict how many will actually attend.
“Graduation is usually a ‘well-oiled machine,’ where everybody knows his or her designated responsibilities and fulfills them,” Knight said. “With this graduation, flexibility is necessary. Everything is having to be re-thought, re-created, and adjusted because of the reality of the pandemic with which we are all dealing.”
For those who are unable to attend in-person, all three services will be streamed online. The live links can be found on Southern’s homepage just before the services begin.
For more information, please visit Southern’s graduation information page at www.southern.edu/graduation