Virginia Tech working on plans for in-person and virtual commencement

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 3:11 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ/Virginia Tech Release) - Virginia Tech is planning to hold in-person commencement ceremonies in Lane Stadium, and possibly other places, to celebrate graduating Hokies, while still adhering to public health guidelines. Multiple events will be arranged to accommodate thousands.

Graduates and guests will not be permitted to gather in large numbers outside the stadium. Tailgating and congregating will not be allowed and public health measures will still be in place.

That news follows the announcement by Gov. Ralph Northam Wednesday that some COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted for graduations across the state.

Details are not final, and university officials said at a town hall Thursday while COVID numbers are “turning in a good direction,” the next two to three weeks will be critical, because to make an in-person graduation happen, it depends on what happens now. The message from the university is to “stay focused, stay committed.”

At President Tim Sands’ Town Hall Thursday, officials compared commencement planning this year to the fourth quarter of a football game, when you know victory is in sight, but all it takes is one event do derail the win.

“We are in a good place, but we must remain vigilant,” Sands said.

Officials said they saw “concerning behaviors” on St. Patrick’s Day, and emphasized it only takes one thing that gets out of control to set the campus’s progress back by months.

“There’s absolutely no reason another single person needs to die from COVID-19,” Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Frank Shushok, Jr. said. “We just don’t need to infect anybody else, if we can sacrifice a little longer, stay committed to the common good, understand that our future is together, then we will end this game with victory and be really proud of ourselves.”

While coronavirus data is improving, Sands said it’s fragile. The seven-day average has dropped nearly 80% from its peak on the last day of February. Officials said cases are still not where they want them to be, with the positive percent of cases higher than it was in November.

Officials are optimistic they can maintain momentum, but say, “everyone must stay on top of it.”

“I totally understand that people are fatigued, they’re exhausted,” Shushok said. “This is such a long journey.”

Registration for the fall starts next week, and school officials said it will look like a pre-pandemic schedule. They also said don’t throw your masks away yet.

“We really are really trying to get back to what makes Virginia Tech so special and that’s gathering with your faculty in the classroom,” Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Rachel Holloway said.

Sands said he anticipates having vaccine clinics for students on campus before the end of the spring semester.

Commencement updates will be shared via email, online, and through Virginia Tech social media channels.

You can watch the president’s town hall here.

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