Homecoming Weekend will look a little different this fall.
In addition to traditional staples like UB’s Saturday football game against Western Michigan, the university will host the Class of 2020 for an in-person commencement celebration on Friday, Oct. 1.
These festivities, which were initially pushed online last May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will potentially bring thousands of students, along with their friends and families, to campus. UB is holding two ceremonies — the first, at 10 a.m., will be for undergraduates, while the second, at 2 p.m., will be for graduate students — inside Alumni Arena.
Students will walk the stage in their full regalia and will be allotted two tickets each.
“As we celebrate our university’s 175th anniversary, I am delighted to welcome our 2020 graduates back to campus to recognize their significant academic milestone,” UB President Satish Tripathi said in a news release.
Tripathi will deliver the welcome and opening remarks along with A. Scott Weber, provost and executive dean for academic affairs. The ceremonies will not be school-specific, so deans from every UB department will deliver brief remarks before graduates cross the stage.
The celebration will follow UB’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, the university said in a UBNow story. Masks will be required for unvaccinated individuals. Both programs will also be livestreamed for people who are unable to attend in person.
“Now that it is feasible, we hope as many graduates as possible can join us for this eventful celebration,” Tripathi said.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases spike nationwide and public health officials sound the alarm over the Delta variant, which an internal CDC report found is as contagious as chickenpox and can be spread among vaccinated people at higher rates than previously thought.
UB announced on July 8 that the university will waive masking and social distancing rules for fully-vaccinated students in the fall. All students are required to be inoculated, although some may qualify for a religious or personal exemption. UB said that more 19,000 students have reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in early July.
UB held virtual commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 last May. In a pre-recorded commencement welcome video, Tripathi said that “although we have never celebrated our graduates in this manner before, the essence of UB’s commencement tradition remains fundamentally unchanged.”
But not all students were satisfied.
More than 3,500 students signed a Change.org petition last year advocating for an in-person commencement. The petition’s founder, Matthew Helou, wrote that “we do not need commencement in May  and we do not deserve or need commencement online or ‘virtually.’”
Last spring, Tripathi announced UB would hold in-person commencement ceremonies when it was safe to do so. The university remained largely silent about the Class of 2020’s big day until Friday.
Homecoming Weekend will take place this year from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3. The university says on its website that more information on activities and schedules will be released this month.
“History will always remember the Class of 2020 for graduating at the height of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” Tripathi said. “For our part, UB will remember this historic class for demonstrating exceptional innovation, resilience and adaptability during exceptionally trying times.”
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Justin Weiss is the The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.