UPDATE: RMU announces guests can now attend May graduation ceremonies

Garret Roberts, Reporter

UPDATE (4/17/2021): RMU has announced that they will be reversing their decision on commencement, allowing each graduate to invite two guests to the ceremony.

The university had previously announced no guests for this May’s commencement ceremonies, citing that the UPMC Events Center did not have enough space to properly accommodate guests while meeting social distancing guidelines.  While outdoor venues like Joe Walton Stadium were considered, the six foot distance between those in attendance would not have changed the amount of people able to attend the ceremonies.

In an email to students earlier today, university president Christopher Howard said: “After careful consideration, we decided out of an abundance of caution to only permit graduates to attend. However, after we examined your concerns, we identified modifications — including reducing the number of staff who will work at Commencement — that will allow us to welcome guests while following all the public health guidelines I described above.”

The addition of guests will extend to all undergraduate, graduate and doctoral ceremonies for commencement in May.

The university is also asking students and guests to follow some guidelines as they approach commencement:

  • Everyone needs to wear a mask at all times.
  • All guests will need to enter and exit when and where they are told, and to only socialize with members of their own party. Students and guests should not congregate inside the UPMC Events Center before or after the ceremony.
  • If you are not feeling well, or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you must stay at home.
  • Make sure you plan in advance for any guest who will need special accommodations for this event. The more time we have, the better prepared we will be to assist you.

The letter to students also indicates that COVID-19 surveillance testing will continue through the end of the semester. Due to the importance of preventing the spread on campus, the testing may also be intensified.

“The Class of 2021’s commencement ceremonies will be the largest and most complex activity that has occurred on our campus since the pandemic began,” said Howard. “We are counting on students and their guests to make it both safe and memorable.”

UPDATE (4/15/2021): Parts of this article’s structure were shifted or reworded for clarity after officials at RMU reached out with concerns.

Additionally, students seeking a refund for regalia after this change may reach out to the Office of the Provost.

MOON TOWNSHIP — Efforts to introduce a fully traditional graduation ceremony to Robert Morris University’s campus have met a roadblock, leading to changes for this year’s commencement. 

RMU’s Commencement Committee has announced that the university’s May graduation ceremonies will be unable to accommodate any guests. Any guests that were entered during reservation will now be unable to attend the event in person.

Previous emails from the university expressed that numbers were being recorded to see if guests could be allowed at this year’s ceremonies.  After feedback from RMU’s Student Government Association, the university decided the shift to online was necessary. 

As previously confirmed in emails from the committee, a livestream will be made available for families to watch the ceremony. While the previous model would allow for a maximum of two guests in addition to the graduating student, now all parents and family members must watch the ceremony via this livestream. 

The decision comes less than a week after the deadline to order regalia for the ceremony, which had previously been extended to April 9. 

The Commencement Committee states that the decision was made due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Western Pennsylvania. According to Allegheny County, 204 new cases have been confirmed in the last 24 hours. 

Previous emails from the university expressed that numbers were being recorded to see if guests could be allowed at the ceremony. According to the public SGA minutes, this issue was last discussed on March 18, with the last communication with the Provost taking place after the meeting on March 4 with the SGA president.

According to the March 18 meeting minutes, in regards to guests: “There is someone working on requirements and guidelines, like the 6 ft. distance rule, so we will have to hear about the guidelines.”

Despite changes to the ceremony, RMU has not announced any changes to on campus events leading to graduation. There have been no changes announced for either Accepted Students Day, which will bring groups to campus this Saturday, or the RMU Day of Excellence, which will bring student groups together this Sunday. 

As of today, no announcements have been made about Super Saturday, an unofficial event which occurs the weekend before finals. Students have expressed opinions about the gathering on social media recently, sharing their desire to celebrate anonymously on pages such as rmu.confessions.

With spikes in COVID-19 cases around holidays, stemming from lack of social distancing and masks at parties on Halloween and St. Patrick’s day, the university has expressed taking disciplinary action against these student gatherings.