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Iowa’s Public Universities to Hold In-Person Graduation

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Iowa’s three public universities have announced they will hold graduation ceremonies in-person this spring, just days after a bill proposed to force them.

The bill, introduced last Friday by a Republican lawmaker, requires universities to hold in-person ceremonies, allowing at least two guests per graduate. “The universities may establish protocols for the control and prevention of COVID, as deemed necessary,” it said.

This proposition conflicted with the University of Iowa (UI) and the University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) decision to hold their graduations virtually, announced at the start of the semester weeks ago. Unlike UI and UNI, Iowa State University (ISU) waited to announce plans for commencement.

Now, in a swift change of plans, all three universities sided with the new proposition, saying they will hold in-person graduations in May.

Representative Carter Nordman, chair of the bill’s subcommittees, argued students have been accommodating of their school’s COVID-related protocols ever since the pandemic started. “They deserve an in-person graduation,” Nordman said. “I do believe an in-person graduation is doable based on what we know about this virus, how to mitigate this virus, and the fact that there are going to be widely available vaccines by May.”

Iowa Universities’ Plans

UNI said it will hold a limited in-person commencement, while UI considers an in-person option.

“The format will be designed to honor and celebrate the achievements of our graduates while practicing the university’s guidelines for social distancing and mandatory face coverings,” UI said in a campus update.

UNI, on the other hand, is planning three “modified” ceremonies for bachelor’s and master’s degree students. This will ensure the school “safely celebrates the accomplishments of our graduates and protects the health of our campus community,” President Mark Nook wrote. The campus will also livestream the ceremony for those who cannot attend.

ISU celebrations will require mandatory masking and social distancing. Ceremonies for bachelor’s and master’s graduates will be held in the open while doctorate and veterinary medicine graduates will celebrate in Hilton Coliseum.

“While it is our intent to offer modified in-person commencement activities, we will change course if necessary and as conditions warrant to maintain the safety of our graduates and guests,” ISU President Wendy Wintersteen said.

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