After extensive discussions, Augusta University has decided to exclude guests from its Fall 2020 Commencement, which will be held next Friday (Dec. 11) at James Brown Arena with three socially distanced sessions. Only the graduating seniors, faculty and administrators will attend the sessions with two colleges going at a time. The decision was made because of the recent national spike in COVID-19 cases and warnings that the situation will get worse during the winter holiday season. An email was sent Friday afternoon, Dec. 4, to AU students, faculty and staff from Dr. Zach Kelehear, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, stating the following:
“After several months of extensive consultation with students, campus experts in public health and infectious disease, and campus leaders, Augusta University has determined that it will hold the Fall Commencement ceremonies scheduled for Friday, Dec. 11, without guests.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one that is responsive to our students’ desire to celebrate their academic achievements by walking across the stage, while recognizing the potential public health risks posed by current COVID-19 infection rates. We realize that this decision will be disappointing to family and friends who have looked forward to cheering on their students in-person as they receive their degrees. Please know that we delayed a final decision on commencement as long as we could in the hopes that we could accommodate an in-person audience, but after careful and thoughtful consideration of the most recent facts, we felt we had no choice but to move ahead with no guests.
“For those students who will be participating in the ceremony, we encourage you to invite your friends and family to watch our live webcast during your designated session.
For students who might prefer to wait for a more typical graduation experience, we will offer the opportunity for all 2020 graduates to participate in our May 2021 commencement ceremony.
“Even if this commencement does not look like we had hoped, we are excited to congratulate members of the Class of 2020.
“Graduating students, please remember to arrive at least 45 minutes prior to your assigned session.
“The safety protocols that you have been so mindful of, and have been so diligent in adhering to over the past semester will continue to be important during commencement. And, in fact, your faithfulness in protecting your health and the health of others has made it possible for us to offer an in-person graduation option for our students.
“All faculty, staff and students should follow the 3 Ws: Wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. Anyone not using a face covering will be asked to wear one or leave the arena. For more information and safety protocols, visit our online commencement resource,” wrote Kelehear.