Mason will allow for in-person celebrations following Governor Northam’s announcement


Per new guidelines released recently by Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia universities may hold in-person commencement ceremonies provided they meet COVID-19 safety precautions. 

According to Northam’s statement, “Graduation events held outdoors will be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Graduation events held indoors may have up to 500 people, or 30 percent of the venue capacity, whichever is less.” Guests will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing. 

With more than one million Virginians fully vaccinated, including two-thirds of teachers and school staff, Northam is eager for in-person school activities to resume. However, most Virginia universities are opting for a combination of virtual and socially-distanced celebrations. 

The University of Virginia will not hold an in-person ceremony this spring, choosing to have an “internet-based celebration” instead. The school had intended to include the class of 2020, whose graduation last May was held virtually due to the virus, in its formal ceremony.

Virginia Tech will hold an online commencement but plans to have smaller, in-person celebrations. Specific plans have not been announced but the school says it is organizing multiple graduation ceremonies in accordance with public health protocols. 

The University of Mary Washington also plans to hold multiple smaller ceremonies to give students as much of a traditional graduation as possible. Up to 150 graduates can be present at each ceremony, though students are limited to four guests and parties must maintain 10 feet of distance. 

As of April 1, Mason has announced that in-person options will be available to graduating students. Students will have the choice between two in-person graduation celebrations, including the Patriot procession and a mini ceremony.

The Patriot procession is “a unique opportunity for graduates, doctoral candidates, and their guests to celebrate this tremendous achievement together in a very personal way,” according to an email sent to the Mason community on April 1. At this ceremony, graduates will choose a time and choose eight guests to watch the graduate walk across the stage and have their name announced. The mini ceremonies are offered by each of Mason’s academic colleges and will last one hour, which will consist of brief congratulatory remarks and the graduates walking across the stage with their names being called out. This ceremony will take place at EagleBank Arena and graduates will be able to invite up to three guests.