February 19: UF to hold in-person commencement for spring graduates

The University of Florida this spring will hold in-person commencement ceremonies for the first time in more than a year, marking the return of a cherished UF tradition.

“We are absolutely thrilled to celebrate our graduating students’ incredible accomplishments with in-person commencement ceremonies this spring. I can’t wait to join families and Gators everywhere in joyously saluting our graduates and cheering them on in their next adventure,” said UF President Kent Fuchs.

Fuchs will speak at each of the 14 commencement ceremonies scheduled over a five-day period from April 29 to May 3 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center where the individual recognitions will not be impacted by weather. Due to the increase in the number of ceremonies in the O’Connell Center, the previously planned all-university ceremony in Ben Hill Griffin stadium will not be held this year.

The last in-person commencements at UF were held in December 2019. Because of the pandemic, spring, summer and fall 2020 commencements were held virtually.  The university is committed to also offering every graduate from 2020 an opportunity for a make-up in-person recognition ceremony. Plans and dates for those ceremonies will be finalized and announced at a later date.

Spring 2021 commencement attendees will be required to adhere to health and safety protocols provided by UF Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including physical distancing and wearing of masks.  The health and safety protocols will be similar to the approach for UF athletic events currently held in the O’Connell Center.

The O’Connell Center will be restricted to 20% capacity for each ceremony to enable physical distancing, limiting the number of guests per candidate to two. At that rate, an estimated 584 students will participate in each commencement ceremony. The number of staff and volunteers who traditionally work the ceremonies has been reduced as well.

Because of the limited capacity, three ceremonies will be held each day, and the O’Connell Center will be sanitized in between each event. Masks will be required of all participants and guests. Also, hand sanitizer stations will be available on site.

Weather permitting, UF will open Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for family and friends who cannot attend the events at the O’Connell Center to view each ceremony live on the big screen. The maximum number of people allowed at the stadium, while adhering to physical distancing guidelines, is roughly 17,000. Masks will be required. Each ceremony also will be livestreamed for those unable to attend the stadium or O’Connell Center events.

In addition to fewer graduates at the ceremony, the ceremonies will be different as well. There will be no processional, nor recessional, no platform party, and college deans will not be shaking hands with students.  Doctoral students will wear their hoods throughout the ceremony.  However, most importantly, every graduating student present will be individually recognized as they walk across the stage.

UF Student Government is planning multiple events in the week leading up to the Senior Sendoff with festivities scattered throughout campus to ensure physical distancing. Participants will be required to wear masks during the events as well. Additional details will be released at a later date.

The university will collaborate with the City of Gainesville, the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and the Alachua County Hospitality Council to work with area hotels, restaurants and establishments to stress the importance of physical distancing, sanitation and masking safety measures in accordance with county requirements. 

Students who wish to participate in their spring commencement ceremony must register by March 31 at https://one.uf.edu/. Those who previously signed up must re-register as well due to the increase in ceremonies.

For additional information, visit https://commencement.ufl.edu/spring/