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Provost advises colleges to begin planning for commencement

A survey of Carlson students found that 78% of those who responded would attend an in-person graduation ceremony that followed safety guidelines.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

Earlier this month, University of Minnesota Provost Rachel Croson called on individual colleges to begin planning for either virtual, in-person or hybrid spring commencement ceremonies, according to a Thursday email from President Joan Gabel.

Croson ordered University colleges to begin contingency planning if circumstances change due to COVID-19, advising colleges to abide by social distancing guidelines and live-stream the ceremony if in-person.

Colleges planning a ceremony must complete a form detailing their commencement plan no later than March 15.

According to the email, state officials will issue commencement guidance for higher education institutions soon.

Prior to the University announcement, Carlson School of Management student leaders urged the Office of the Vice President and Provost to develop clear guidelines for the University colleges to plan for a possible in-person commencement ceremony.

In a survey developed by the students on the Carlson Business Board, 78% of Carlson students who responded to the survey said they would attend an in-person graduation ceremony if everyone followed safety protocols, and about 95% of students said a ceremony is an important aspect of their undergraduate experience.

“I was hearing a lot from my peers in the senior class that graduation and having some sort of commencement ceremony was really important to them,” said Kayla Fixel, the vice president of the Business Board.

Fixel and Business Board president Nate Burkholder brought a resolution with 250 student sponsors to the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) to incorporate more student input and support. The resolution passed with a 5-1 majority at the MSA Academic Affairs Committee and passed at MSA’s forum meeting on Feb. 9 with roughly 51% of the vote.

“I think I saw Forum as the voice of the students to really be able to tell the University that the students want the University and think the University should be taking a look at that student experience in a very serious manner,” Burkholder said.

Despite passing, several students at the forum meeting criticized the resolution, citing its prematureness and the pressure the resolution would put on international and out-of-state students to travel to attend a ceremony.

“By promoting in-person graduation, we’re in a way kind of separating and dividing people when right now we need to be unifying,” said at-large representative Sarah Jasa. “We’re electing these students to represent our voices, and if they’re making decisions on behalf of us that aren’t the safest for our community … I think they do need to be held accountable.”

MSA president Amy Ma said she feels neutral regarding a virtual or an in-person graduation ceremony.

“I know graduating college is a huge achievement and especially important for first-generation students, and the health and safety concerns are valid as well,” Ma said in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

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