University of Iowa ‘working to develop’ in-person graduation option

After previously setting course for virtual commencement ceremonies, the UI announced Monday it is developing a plan to allow graduates to celebrate in-person while upholding COVID-19 safety guidelines. The university will announce more details by March 19.

University+of+Iowa+President+Bruce+Harreld+speaks+during+virtual+commencement+on+Saturday%2C+May+16%2C+2020.+Due+to+concerns+surrounding+the+COVID-19%2C+the+University+of+Iowa+moved+fall+commencement+online.+

Ryan Adams

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during virtual commencement on Saturday, May 16, 2020. Due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19, the University of Iowa moved fall commencement online.

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter


In a campus-wide email sent on Monday, the University of Iowa announced that staff are working on creating an in-person option to celebrate graduation for spring 2021 graduates, changing course from earlier plans to hold all-virtual celebrations.

The format will allow graduates to celebrate “while practicing the university’s guidelines for social distancing and mandatory face coverings” the update stated. The UI will announce additional details by March 19. 

Iowa State University announced on Monday that it will hold modified in-person celebrations for bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients. ISU President Wendy Wintersteen said the university plans to have a short program in Jack Trice Stadium, while requiring face coverings and limiting attendance. 

Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would require the state’s public universities to hold in-person commencement ceremonies. 

In a December interview with The Daily Iowan, UI President Bruce Harreld said that the UI would plan on a virtual graduation because it takes time to organize the virtual format, but that the UI could reverse if COVID-19 conditions improved.

“We need to plan and that’s got a lot of things that we have to videotape and get all together,” Harreld said. “If we get all of that together, we can then throw it away and have a live one relatively easy. I hope that’s where we end up.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health announced last week the launch of Vaccinate.Iowa.gov, a website that provides information about vaccine eligibility, resources for people age 65 and older, and answers to questions about the vaccine. 

Reynolds released projections that all Iowa adults will be eligible to receive the vaccine by early April — though getting vaccines into arms could take much longer. According to the state’s vaccine tracker, Iowa has doled out 710,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines require two doses. The FDA approved the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the weekend. 

Vaccine supplies remain limited, so the university is asking people to remain patient and continue to follow COVID-19 safety measures, according to Monday’s campus update, including practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings.

The university also reported four new cases of COVID-19 among students and zero among employees since Feb. 26. There are no residence hall students in quarantine and three in self-isolation.

Since Aug. 18, there have been a total of 3,012 cases among students and 443 among employees.

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