UCSD to Allow In-Person Commencement Ceremonies, Announces BLM Co-Founder as Speaker

In a campus-wide email sent out on Wednesday, April 14, the UC San Diego Office of the Chancellor provided major updates to the commencement ceremonies that are slated to take place on Saturday, June 12 and Sunday, June 13. Graduates will now have the option to attend the ceremonies in-person on RIMAC field, as opposed to having a fully virtual event. UCSD also announced that Black Lives Matter Global Network co-founder and UCSD alumna Alicia Garza will be addressing graduates at the ceremonies. 

The statement noted that graduating students will now have the option of attending commencement ceremonies in-person, with no more than two guests. All attendees must be either fully vaccinated or have had a negative COVID-19 test within 24 to 72 hours prior to the ceremony. Participants must also complete a symptom screener upon entry. UCSD said the event will follow health and safety measures as recommended by the Center for Disease Control, as well as state and county guidelines for travel and gatherings.

Commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed for graduates who are unable to participate in-person. Each undergraduate college as well as the Graduate Division, Rady School of Management and the School of Global Policy and Strategy, will have separate ceremonies. All events will “reflect the culture” of each college and will include an address from Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Garza, and a student speaker. 

Due to the pandemic, UCSD held a virtual commencement ceremony in June 2020. Students who graduated as part of the UCSD class of 2020 are not eligible to participate in the commencement ceremonies this summer. UCSD has promised that there will be opportunities to celebrate 2020 graduates at future alumni events.

In response, a number of UCSD graduates from the class of 2020 expressed their frustrations with the announcement. At the time of publication of this article, over 240 people have signed onto a petition calling for UCSD to plan an in-person commencement ceremony for these former students. 

In an email sent out to UCSD class of 2020 alumni on Friday, April 16, UCSD announced its new plan to hold a graduation ceremony for these former students in October 2021.

“The graduates of the Class of 2020 deserve in-person recognition of their academic achievements,” the statement read. “We are committed to celebrating you and your fellow classmates at a dedicated Class of 2020 Graduation Celebration in October. In the fall, we anticipate reaching a critical mass of fully vaccinated individuals throughout the region and across the country. A greatly improved public health climate will allow state and county agencies to permit larger, more traditional gatherings.”

UCSD said that further details on the October celebration will be offered in the coming weeks.

Other University of California schools, such as UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, recently announced that they would be having in-person graduation ceremonies. However, no guests will be allowed and ceremonies will be spread out over a few days to minimize exposure.

Commencement speaker Alicia Garza founded the Black Lives Matter hashtag along with co-founders Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin in July of 2013. The Black Lives Matter movement gained further attention for its role in galvanizing widespread protests in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. 

Garza graduated from UCSD in 2002 with a degree in anthropology and sociology and was recently featured at the “Grassroots Activism and Politics” event hosted by the UC San Diego Associated Students Office of External Affairs and the UCSD Department of Political Science back in February. 

“As an influential activist, social innovator and the co-founder of one of the largest civil rights movements in history, Ms. Garza believes Black communities deserve what all communities deserve—to be powerful in every aspect of their lives,” the statement read. “Her remarks will surely inspire the more than 8,000 graduates and their families, along with the 10,000 audience members we expect to join us online.”

Graduating students are encouraged to register for commencement by Wednesday, May 19. The UCSD Guardian will provide further updates on class of 2020 commencement plans as it becomes available.

Photo taken by Erik Jepsen for UC San Diego

This article was updated on 4/16 at 12:27PM to reflect new information that UCSD plans to hold a celebration for class of 2020 students in October 2021.

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