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The Antelope

The Antelope

UNK makes plans for 2021 graduation with changes

UNK officials decided to hold the 2021 spring graduation in person this semester. There will be some changes from previous years, but they plan to move forward with safety in mind.

A major difference this semester will be the separation of the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies to reduce the number of people in attendance. 

“We want to be a good member of the community,” said John Falconer, chair of the Commencement Committee and senior advisor to the chancellor for executive affairs. “We want to protect people.”

Since February, local directed health measures have allowed events full capacity, but UNK is taking extra precautions since commencement usually draws large crowds. Falconer said that by dividing the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies into two separate days,  UNK hopes to make the ceremonies “less compact.”  

Graduates have also been asked to reduce the number of attendees, though no strict limits have been placed on students, which is a change from the last two UNK graduation ceremonies which gave students tickets for graduation causing students to choose only a few or several people to attend.

“It is a big deal for parents,” Falconer said. “The chancellor is so attuned to that family participation in the event. So that was a hard thing to do, but we had to.”

Masks will be required, and officials do not foresee filling any greater than 75% capacity.

The separation of graduations will be a change since summer and December of 2020 were still held in conjunction with one another. In the future, there may be a separate hooding ceremony for graduate students and a joint ceremony for distribution for diplomas with the undergraduate students. 

“For some students it’s not that big of a deal. But for others it’s to really mark the occasion in your life you really won’t forget,” Falconer said. “You can’t help walking out of there feeling like ‘now I’ve done something.’”

Many of last year’s graduates were not able to attend the summer graduation to make up for the missed spring commencement. 

“I think at first it was kind of rough because it didn’t feel like there was a definitive end,” said Daniel Keeling a 2020 graduate with a degree in political science with a minor in philosophy. “I just entered this completely new phase without doing anything to really commemorate it.”

Despite some students having been left out, UNK has been able to offer in-person commencements unlike some of its counterparts. Falconer said it has been UNK’s small size that has allowed it to continue with somewhat normal proceedings. Officials also have a backup plan in case of changes in case numbers or COVID-19 restrictions. One main part of that plan is to split commencement each day into separate ceremonies for each college, though it is not foreseen that will be necessary.

The undergraduate commencement ceremony will be held 10 a.m. Friday, May 7, 2021, and the graduate ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 8, 2021. The page on the UNK website regarding commencement reminds people to take into account that protocol and plans are subject to change “whether allowing greater leniency or calling for greater caution” depending on what happens with COVID-19 between now and then. 

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