ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Winthrop University says they will hold an in-person spring commencement ceremony in May and return to a “normal” fall semester.
The university made the announcements Tuesday. The commencement will be for all interested Spring 2021 graduate and undergraduate degree candidates.
“I hope you are as thrilled as I am with the prospect of the first, large in-person indoor events to be held on campus in more than a year,” said Interim President George Hynd in a Feb. 25 campus-wide e-mail. “As long as we continue to do the right things as far as our campus safety protocols for the remainder of the spring semester, we will be able to once again host these long-awaited ceremonies.”
This spring’s commencement will take the form of five ceremonies in the Winthrop Coliseum:
- Thursday, May 6
- 7 p.m.: All graduate degree candidates
- Friday, May 7
- 10 a.m.: College of Arts and Sciences (B.S. and B.S.W. degree candidates) and the College of Visual and Performing Arts
- 3 p.m.: College of Arts and Sciences (B.A. degree candidates)
- Saturday, May 8
- 10 a.m.: Richard W. Riley College of Education
- 3 p.m.: College of Business Administration
All degree candidates will need to confirm attendance in advance for their assigned seating and will only be allowed up to two tickets for their guests.
The university will implement COVID-19 measures, such as: requiring masks to be worn; seating degree candidates and their guests upon their arrival at the Coliseum; appropriately physically distancing attendees as well as graduates’ chairs on the Coliseum floor; and limiting unnecessary close contact.
The university cited the dropping number of COVID-19 cases in York County and vaccine availability as drivers behind the decision to return to a “more traditional” fall semester in August.
In a Feb. 26 campus-wide e-mail, Interim President George Hynd said he is confident that the university will be able to start the fall semester with traditional in-person learning and extracurricular offerings.
“We have been purposeful in structuring the fall academic offerings to be more aligned with normal semesters, with our goal being upward of 80 percent of our courses to be taught in the in-person and hybrid modalities,” Hynd said.
On the residential side, the university will likely shift back to the campus residency requirement for first- and second-year students. Waivers were provided for students who chose not to live on campus during the 2020-21 academic year.
Hynd said forecasts are that the vaccine will be widely available by July, which would create the environment that, along with the university’s continued campus protocols, make a more normal fall semester within reach.
“That said, we cannot yet predict how many students or community members will be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester, nor what impact, if any, variant strains of the virus may have,” the interim president said. “We will continue to monitor the latter, in particular, as well as infection rates across the state, with the option of pivoting back to online learning in the fall if warranted.”