I have many ideas for how Davidson College could carefully and successfully implement an IN-PERSON commencement (including immediate family members) for the Class of 2021:
Using Richardson Stadium - set up chairs 6 feet apart on the football field for graduates to sit while immediate family members are designated a clearly labeled spot in the bleachers. These spots can be coordinated as follows: the graduate provides the college with information regarding who will be attending (again, immediate family members only i.e. mom, dad, brother, sister). The college then takes this information and creates a seating chart using the bleachers in Richardson Stadium, assigning each family a spot that is 6 feet apart from any other family. After creating the chart, the college sends an email to the graduate's family notifying them of the location of their assigned spot (for example, Section 3 Seats 5-7), so the process is easy and swift and accounts for as little interaction with other families as possible on graduation day. Then, prior to commencement, the college physically labels each spot in the bleachers with the family's names and X's for the individuals to sit to provide further clarity as families file in for the ceremony.
Scheduled arrival time - One concern the college might have is that all the families may arrive at once and pile into the stadium simultaneously. To avoid this, the college could coordinate scheduled arrival times for families, similar to the system put in place for student COVID testing. For example, assume commencement is at 12:00 PM... graduates' families with the last name A-H arrive at 11:00, I-P arrive at 11:20, and Q-Z arrive at 11:40. This will eliminate large crowds, and families can find their seats without close interaction with others. As the ceremony concludes and graduates wish to find their families, at this point the entire campus is open for families to take pictures and remain socially distant.
If the college is still hesitant to implement said ideas, despite being outside and very clearly and deliberately socially distant, then the following is an even more cautious solution:
- Divide commencement into two/three/four parts - like extremely large state schools and universities do for ordinary commencement, Davidson could split their typical single graduation ceremony into multiple. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as by degree (one ceremony for Bachelor of Arts graduates and another for Bachelor of Science graduates), by last name (one ceremony for last names A-H, one ceremony for last names I-P, and a third ceremony for last names Q-Z), or by major (one ceremony for Biology/Chemistry/Physics/Mathematics, one ceremony for Economics/Psychology/Political Science, one ceremony for History/English/Communication Studies/Sociology, and so on). The point is, there are many variations and ways to divide up the class to create multiple commencement ceremonies that essentially eliminate any risk with having an in-person graduation where immediate family members are eligible to attend. The times for each graduation can be spread out adequately to account for orderly entrances/exits and to allow campus workers to clean seats, bleachers, etc. in between ceremonies to maximize extreme caution.