Cameron University announced this week that it plans to hold an outdoor ceremony in October to award degrees to the Class of 2020. The rescheduled event – complete with the traditional fireworks display – will start at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10 in Cameron Stadium.
Community coronavirus restrictions forced the university to postpone its traditional spring Commencement, which had been planned for May 1.
“Postponing Commencement this past spring was a heartbreaking decision for us,” says CU president John McArthur. “Graduating from college is a rite of passage that our students have earned and deserve, along with the pomp and pageantry that accompany it. It was important to Cameron that we find a way to celebrate our graduates appropriately.”
While still taking place outdoors, the fall ceremony will differ from past celebrations. The most noticeable change will be social distancing. Graduates will still sit on the field, but their seats will be spaced six feet apart. Likewise, families and friends seated in the stands will be strongly encouraged to observe social distancing rules. The university will limit audience capacity to the number of individuals the stadium can safely hold according to COVID-19 social distancing protocols in effect this fall. To allow more to attend, CU may allow seating on the grassy areas of the stadium depending on weather conditions.
Since it is likely that seating limitations will prevent some family and friends from attending in-person, Cameron will live-stream Commencement on social media. Candidates for graduation will receive instructions in the weeks ahead regarding the number of guests they may invite, as well as how to access the live-stream of the event.
A hooding event for graduate students – which usually takes place earlier on the day of Commencement – will be combined with the graduation ceremony in some form and will not be held separately.
CU worked with the Lawton Public Schools to find a date that did not impact high school football games that normally take place in the stadium during the fall. That resulted in a small window of opportunity to prepare for the ceremony and hold it. A visible indication of that will be a smaller, less elaborate stage for the platform party. This year’s platform party will not be as large, and there will be no Commencement speaker. Due to the limited availability of the stadium, as well as COVID-19 restrictions, if there is inclement weather, the ceremony will not move indoors, nor will it be rescheduled.
Coronavirus restrictions will also impact other elements of the ceremony, such as the student processional and the traditional handoff of diploma. Commencement may start with candidates for graduation already seated on the field, and there will be no handshake from CU administrators when diplomas are presented.
Cameron officials also warned that, despite the desire to hold the ceremony, if the course of the pandemic worsens when fall arrives, Commencement might not be allowed to take place.