5,000-plus students will participate in spring commencement. Some have mixed reviews about the safety protocols

Rules in place include a limited number of guests per graduate and social distancing guidelines.

Javon Williams | @JavonCW, Contributing Writer

More than 5,000 graduates will participate in spring commencement exercises at Coleman Coliseum between April 30 and May 2. 

A month ahead of graduation, this semester’s seniors and graduate students are preparing for commencement and the safety protocols accompanying it. Masks and social distancing will be enforced, and the University will sanitize the arena between each ceremony. 

To limit attendance, each graduate has been allotted four tickets. This new policy was introduced because of COVID-19. 

Last year, when the pandemic disrupted normal UA operations, graduation ceremonies were postponed. Spring 2020 graduates were allowed to participate in summer commencement ceremonies, which were held between July 31 and Aug. 2. Fall 2020 ceremonies were held at the originally scheduled times in December with heightened safety and health policies. 

Prior to last spring, graduates were not limited in the number of guests that could attend. 

“I think it’s BS,” said Eleni Petruska, a senior majoring in sports communication studies. “The ticket situation is truly something else—only allowing each student four tickets, and most importantly, not allowing the transfer of tickets.” 

Tickets for the ceremonies are distributed virtually to each guest. One guest can hold all tickets for the group on one device, but the tickets can not be transferred to another student. Group of four will have to sit together in their assigned location in Coleman. 

These ceremony-specific tickets cannot be sold or used to gain access to a different ceremony. If students are caught selling their tickets for profit, it can result in being excluded from their ceremony and possibly other consequences, according to an email from the University.  

Hundreds of students flocked to the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange on Facebook to buy, sell or trade tickets. One student said she was “willing to pay anything.” Another offered to bake cookies in exchange for an extra ticket. 

“I would love for both sets of my grandparents to be able to attend and need 2 more tickets to make that happen,” wrote Bella Cranstone, a senior majoring in nursing. “They would be more than willing to sit in a different section, they just want to go.

Because of the small class size in the nursing program, Cranston said students tend to form close relationships with their professors, who aren’t allowed to attend the ceremony this year. 

Along with graduation, nursing students participate in a pinning ceremony where graduates are presented with their RN pins. Each student is allowed two guests at the pinning ceremony. 

“I think we were all a little disappointed with the numbers for graduation and pinning since numbers have been going down and the vaccine has been going out,” Cranston said. “I think we thought they would up it just a little bit from what they did in the summer and December, but they are exactly the same.” 

Other students posted in the Ticket Exchange about the difficult task of choosing which siblings would receive a ticket. Madeline Puente, a senior majoring in psychology, has five people in her immediate family. 

“One of my brothers is flying in from Guatemala to see me graduate, and now I have to decide which of my siblings won’t be able to come to the ceremony,” she said. 

Despite new policies, Puente said she’s excited to celebrate in person. 

“After last spring, I was optimistic about graduation because I hoped the pandemic would be under better control by the time I graduated,” Puente said. “I am so thankful to get to cross the stage this spring, and I feel like the pandemic has made me more grateful to have an opportunity to graduate in person.”