MSU to hold outdoor ceremonies for spring 2021 graduation class

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Michigan State University said Wednesday it plans to hold more than 50 outdoor graduation ceremonies with limited attendance for the spring 2021 class.

More than 8,400 undergraduate and graduate degree-earners will be recognized across three weekends in April and May, university officials said.

"Graduation is a time-honored academic transition from learning to the world, and the Office of the Provost looks forward to enabling in-person celebrations to recognize this milestone accomplishment for our spring 2021 graduates," MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff said in a statement. "We have resourced every part of our campus community in support of this effort and are confident in our collective abilities to persevere in commending this group of scholars."

By contrast, the University of Michigan is sticking with its Feb. 4 decision to hold a May 1 virtual ceremony after consulting with students and public health experts. It would be the Ann Arbor university's second straight virtual spring graduation ceremony.

Dissenting parents and UM students held a Saturday rally in front of the Michigan Union to protest the university's decision, citing the decisions of the Big Ten's Purdue and Indiana universities to hold in-person ceremonies.

UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the Wolverines' situation is different from the Spartans' situation since "nearly half of undergraduate students are from out of state. ... We did not believe we could safely ask students and their families to gather in Ann Arbor to celebrate commencement."

Each of Michigan State University's colleges is scheduling undergraduate ceremonies based on students’ majors or alphabetically by last names. MSU's spring graduation season typically has about 20 ceremonies, the school said. They also said a university-wide convocation will not be held unlike previous years.

All undergraduate ceremonies will be held in large parking lots on campus to allow for appropriate physical distancing, officials said. Each graduate will be permitted to have up to two guests at the ceremonies to accommodate current attendance restrictions on outdoor gatherings.

Meanwhile, ceremonies for master’s and doctoral degree recipients as well as education specialists will be held virtually and streamed on MSU's commencement website. But the colleges of Human Medicine, Law, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine will hold in-person ceremonies.

MSU also said 2020 graduates who didn't have in-person ceremonies last year will not participate in this spring's ceremonies due to restrictions on attendance of gatherings. It said it will offer those graduates opportunities at a future date.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez