On April 13 at 11:15 a.m., students got the long-awaited graduation ceremony update.
Students will be allowed to walk at graduation at smaller ceremonies staggered across a few days, but no guests will be permitted. Social distancing and masks will be required at all times. 2021 graduates will be honored on May 14 and 15, while 2020 graduates will have their ceremonies on May 22 and 23.
The email states, “We anticipate that each ceremony will be roughly 30 minutes in length… Faculty and staff will have an opportunity to participate by volunteering in safe, socially distant roles to staff the ceremonies.”
While this marks the first in-person ceremony in over a year, some students were still disappointed that guests won’t be allowed to watch their final “hurrah” on stage.
“I wouldn’t even have asked anyone else to come besides my parents,” said fourth-year history major Odessa Quinonez. “It just seems like they could have rented out a space to give students some kind of audience at least.”
Some students don’t plan on attending the ceremony at all, since they would have to celebrate alone.
SUNY New Paltz is not the first to come out and give an announcement to hold an in-person ceremony, but other SUNY schools such as SUNY Albany are allowing up to four guests per student and time slots to walk across the stage. On the other hand, SUNY Oneonta and some others are planning a fully virtual commencement with an optional stage walking.
Traditionally, the administrative board as well as SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian would be on stage with students and helping facilitate the ceremony. Students would be called by their designated colleges and walk across the stage.
But this year students will remain in groups by college and major and these will be separate ceremonies to limit the amount of students congregating.
New Paltz also requires that students purchase a cap and gown no later than one month before commencement, leaving it down to the wire when the email was sent on April13, and the last date to purchase was April 15. Prices set students back $50 for a cap and gown, and an additional $14 if they were eligible for an honors cord.
Fourth-year early childhood/childhood education major (with a math concentration) Shealyn Naughton planned to purchase her gown on Amazon for a cheaper price, as well as a few other students, according to a Facebook poll.
Typically senior students will see a plethora of events leading up to the day of graduation, including the 100 days event and other networking programs and fairs. This year there were a few events that were also virtual, making it harder for students with other commitments or heavy class loads to attend.
In addition to the commencement lent email update, students were also asked to contribute to the class of 2021 class gift fund and leave a legacy for their year. Interested students can donate on my.newpaltz.edu under the graduation tab or by visiting the link provided.
This news comes on the heels of over 25% of New Yorkers being vaccinated against COVID-19. With more vaccinations, state governments are hopeful that restrictions on social distancing and capacity limits can be rolled back. Hopefully this means an in-person “normal” commencement ceremony for May of 2022.