By Madelin Shelton —

The University of Louisville is exploring the possibility of holding an outdoor, in-person commencement ceremonies May 7 through May 9 at Cardinal Stadium.

May 2021 graduates and 2020 graduates would be invited to attend, as the 2020 commencement ceremonies were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Mardis, U of L dean of students and vice provost for student affairs, detailed the university’s desire to consider this option.

“We wanted to have commencement all along. We’ve done surveying and talked with a lot of different students and gotten feedback through SGA representation,” Mardis said. “Having it outdoors would be safer than having it indoors and it would be a bigger venue. Safety is our number one concern, but we have this strong desire to have an in-person ceremony because we know that that’s what students want.”

Stephanie Reibert, U of L’s commencement coordinator, discussed how the university plans to abide by COVID-19 guidelines for such an event.

“We are going to follow all university, state and CDC guidelines for precautions. So, there will be physical distancing at all times amongst the graduates and the guests,” she said. “Although it’s an outdoor event masks are going to be required at all times.”

There will also be hand sanitizing stations, sanitation of the podium, and ongoing discussions of how to handle the entry of people into the stadium so that there will be fewer touch points. Further, Mardis mentioned the likelihood that tickets for the event will be electronic to reduce interactions among staff and guests.

He also stated the importance of staying responsive and flexible with the changing nature of the pandemic. The university plans to make adjustments to commencement plans as the situation changes.

For graduates, the number of guests they can bring with them will likely be restricted. The university has limited capacity on the number of people that can be present at Cardinal Stadium.

“Our goal is to allow a safe number of guests to celebrate each graduate, but that number is still to be determined based on the state of the virus and the guidelines at that time,” Reibert said. “The number of guests allowed per each graduate will also depend on how many graduates will be participating in the ceremonies, which the university is gathering numbers on now.”

The university will come to a final decision about whether to host the outdoor ceremonies, and specific details, sometime in March.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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