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Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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UB plans to hold in-person commencement this spring

The 175th Commencement will be celebrated in person

<p>Former UB provost Charles Zukoski speaks to graduates at the university's 2018 commencement ceremony.</p>

Former UB provost Charles Zukoski speaks to graduates at the university's 2018 commencement ceremony.

UB President Satish Tripathi announced Wednesday morning that UB’s 175th commencement ceremony will be held in person and over livestream, in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.

This year’s commencement ceremony will take place from April 30 to May 16, with all festivities being held outdoors, in UB Stadium. Students and faculty will be required to wear masks, practice physical distancing and undergo weekly testing. Currently, only students can attend the graduation ceremonies, but guest information will be released later. All ceremonies will be live streamed.

Tripathi says he “couldn’t be prouder” of how the graduating class faced COVID-19 with “resilience, perseverance and ingenuity.” He says the hard work of the student body inspired him to hold an in-person graduation ceremony.

The 2020 commencement was held virtually, as the pandemic was spreading across the U.S., despite pleas from students who wanted an in-person ceremony. 

More than 3,000 students signed a Change.org petition last April urging UB to push the ceremony to a later date to allow for an in-person graduation. Matthew Helou, a since-graduated biochemistry major, told The Spectrum that the Class of 2020 “deserve[d] the traditional, true and in-person commencement ceremonies that hundreds of thousands of UB graduates have had the privilege of participating in since 1846.”

Jennifer Persico, a since-graduated architecture student, also launched a petition last year. Persico wrote that “neither myself nor the other thousands of students graduating this year have put in hard work day after day, semester after semester, and year after year to receive a ‘virtual’ commencement ceremony.”

In an email to the university community last April, Tripathi wrote, “After much deliberation, we have determined that the University at Buffalo will hold our spring 2020 commencement ceremonies in a virtual environment this May. As with all decisions we have made during these uncertain times, the health and well-being of our entire UB community is our guidepost and our priority.”

UB officials said an in-person ceremony for the Class of 2020 would be held at a later date.

UB will host 17 ceremonies over the course of two weeks, Tripathi wrote, and will be utilizing UB Stadium and another, unnamed UB outdoor venue. UB Stadium, which usually has a maximum capacity of 29,000, will be limited to 2,900 guests; the outdoor venue will be capped at 500.

The Class of 2021 counts more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students in its ranks. The university expects 6,000 students to attend one of the in-person ceremonies. UB posted the 2021 schedule on its website. The university says it will release additional details in the near future.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated for additional context.

Dan Eastman is the assistant managing editor and can be reached at danielson.eastman@ubspectrum.com 

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