UC Berkeley plans for in-person winter 2021 commencement

staff of a graduation stole
David McAllister/Senior Staff
UC Berkeley announced its plans for an in-person graduation ceremony for students graduating fall 2021. The ceremony would allow guests to attend, but is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for guests older than 12 years old.

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UC Berkeley announced plans for an in-person commencement to celebrate students graduating in fall 2021 in an email sent Wednesday.

The commencement will be held Dec. 18 in Haas Pavilion, said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. Each graduate and up to 15 guests will be able to attend the ceremony in person, according to the email announcement, which was sent to the fall graduates.

“We have received a very positive response to this decision, and we are very excited to honor our graduates at this ceremony,” Gilmore said in an email.

Recent commencements were all conducted virtually due to public health concerns. The class of 2020 was also offered an in-person commencement in August, a year and a half after their ceremony was originally scheduled.

According to the announcement, the winter 2021 commencement will not be a replacement ceremony for class of 2020 or spring 2021 graduates.

As for COVID-19 precautions, graduates and guests older than 12 years old must be vaccinated, according to Gilmore. Haas Pavilion is expected to be filled to less than half capacity, Gilmore added.

“So long as we maintain these well-established public health measures, I’m sure it could be done safely in person,” said Lee Riley, campus professor of infectious diseases.

According to John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus in the campus School of Public Health, social distancing, the vaccination requirement and Haas Pavilion’s ventilation system should help mitigate the risks of the event. However, a possible rise in COVID-19 cases by December and people traveling from around the country could impact safety, noted Swartzberg.

Each person will have to make their own decision on whether physically attending the ceremony is right for them, Swartzberg added. According to the campus commencement website, the ceremony will also be livestreamed.

ASUC Senator Dil Sen encouraged campus students to get tested and vaccinated to help improve public safety. Sen added students who choose to graduate in the fall instead of the spring may have a variety of reasons for doing so.

“Perhaps it better aligns with their professional recruitment cycle, perhaps they finished earlier or later than expected,” Sen said in an email. “Maybe the fall graduation date allows them flexibility with graduate school applications and preparations.”

Sen added regardless of students’ reasons for graduating, he would cheer them on “from a safe distance.”

According to ASUC Senator Muz Ahmad, students may graduate in the fall so that they can save a semester’s worth of tuition. Fall graduates may also be eager to start their careers earlier, Ahmad added, although the transition is likely filled with mixed emotions.

“It’s a bittersweet moment leaving behind an intense and memorable journey at Cal whilst also moving on into the real world,” Ahmad said in a text message.

Lance Roberts also contributed to this report.

Contact Gabe Classon at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @GabeClasson.