Faculty urge governor, Texas universities to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies this fall


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Faculty Association is urging Governor Greg Abbott and state university governing boards to cancel or postpone in-person graduation ceremonies this fall in favor of virtual events due to coronavirus concerns.

“With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Texas, we think [having an in-person ceremony] is a dangerous idea,” said Pat Heintzelman, president of the Texas Faculty Association and an instructor at Lamar University in Beaumont.

“Despite what some people would like to think, Texas hasn’t returned to normal yet. We are still in the middle of a deadly pandemic, and we fear in-person graduation events that include families and more than a handful of faculty members will be super-spreader events for the virus,” Heintzelman said.

Texas State University has already announced plans for in-person commencement events this fall. University officials say the ceremony will be held outside at Bobcat Stadium. A limited number of guests will be allowed per graduate, attendance will be limited to 25% capacity, graduates will be socially distanced and masks will be required for all people in attendance.

The university has also planned to hold virtual ceremonies for people who may not be able to attend in-person. This will be live streamed and made available after the event.

Commencement for Texas State University will be held on Thursday, December 10 for spring and summer 2020 graduates and Friday, December 11 for fall candidates.

The University of Texas at Austin has already indicated that there will be no public exercises. The official graduation date at UT is Saturday, Dec. 19.

Officials at Austin Community College say they are still working out the details for fall commencement, but would not share whether that included an in-person event.

St. Edward’s University does not hold commencement ceremonies in the fall. A spokesperson said it was still too early to say what the plans will be for the spring.

Reach KXAN Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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