California Baptist University announced on March 19 that graduation for the spring class of 2021 will take place in person. This is the first semester since fall 2019 that features in-person graduation, as pandemic restrictions caused spring, summer and fall 2020 graduations to occur over Zoom in December.
After a recent decline in new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Riverside County and an increase in the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, the CBU Executive Council stated in an email that the school will host nine separate, socially-distanced commencement ceremonies. These ceremonies will take place May 3-6 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each day. Ceremonies will be separated according to colleges, with each ceremony honoring about 200 graduates. In addition to the graduates themselves, four guests per graduate will be allowed to attend. The ceremonies will also be streamed online.
Joe Adcock, assistant dean of students for administration, is involved in planning graduation.
“It has always been the hope for all of us to be able to celebrate our graduates with in-person ceremonies,” Adcock said. “Unfortunately, we have been limited in what we could do with the many state and local COVID-19 related restrictions.”
Adcock shared the safety procedures CBU will take to ensure the safety of graduates and their families.
“Appropriate physical distancing will be observed in guest and graduate seating areas,” Adcock said. “Masks will be required for all attending and participating in the ceremony. Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the venue.”
Daisy Erber, senior international studies and history major, will be graduating this spring. She said she thinks the intimacy of the smaller ceremonies will be a positive change.
“I think the mini ceremonies will be cool for the different departments to celebrate together,” Erber said. “It will be meaningful for the graduates to see their friends and people who they have worked alongside for four years in their caps, gowns and masks.”
Along with the class of 2021, the prior graduating class of 2020 will be honored in their own ceremony on May 7. Although the 2020 graduates received an online ceremony in December, they will now have the opportunity to participate in an in-person ceremony.
Laura Farley, fall 2020 graduate, said she is anticipating the memories she now will have a chance to make.
“It has always been a dream of my grandfather to see me walk across the stage and graduate in commencement,” Farley said. “He helped move me into campus my first day of freshman year, and it would be so cool for him to see me walk across that stage in honor of completing my degree.”
Despite the announcement, Erber stated she is not as excited as she would have been before the pandemic.
“It is exciting that they are having in-person graduations,” Erber said. “It is just that COVID-19 has put so much perspective on life that I am not as excited for graduation in general. I was so ready to not have graduation, I have already grieved over not having it. I realized it is not as big of a deal. We do not need it. It is a fun cultural tradition but we still graduate, we still get our degrees and we can still celebrate in small ways.”
Students interested in more information about commencement can visit https://calbaptist.edu/commencement/.