Binghamton University’s first non-virtual Commencement since the pandemic will enforce unprecedented rules.

This year’s Commencement will be a hybrid event, offering both in-person Grad Walks at the BU Events Center and a virtual livestream. The Grad Walks will occur in sections based on school and are further sectioned into small enough groups to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The Grad Walks will begin on Thursday, May 13, and end on Sunday, May 16, before the last day of classes. Each graduate is allowed two guests who must provide a ticket to enter the ceremony. According to Darcy Fauci, director for government relations and chief of staff, these tickets will not be transferable.

“We are attempting to provide an opportunity where guests are allowed, but it requires very specific and strict rules,” Fauci wrote in an email. “Some institutions are not allowing guests at all. We, on the other hand, have put a plan in place that allows for guests, but, again, there have to be limits. This is all about safety, but it is also about equity. You cannot allow one student to have more than two guests without allowing everyone to have more than two guests, and that is not possible with the current [New York state] guidance. The other option is to only have students involved in these Grad Walks.”

The Office of Commencement website emphasized that tickets are nontransferable and “[if] a ticket assigned to another student is transferred and presented for entry, it will not scan and entry will be denied.”

Kelly Donlon, a senior majoring in psychology, said she felt that unused tickets should be permitted to be redistributed as long as there was space available to maintain social distancing.

“Unused tickets should be given away,” Donlon wrote. “If safely distanced seating is still available due to unclaimed tickets, it seems perfectly safe for them to be filled by people who want to see a student graduate.”

Limiting the amount of guests is not the only new rule for attending Commencement. The Office of Commencement website states that anyone attending must present either proof of completed immunization, a negative antigen test within six hours of the ceremony, a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours of the ceremony or proof of a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 and full recovery within the last 90 days.

“Any individual who fails to present a negative diagnostic test result or proof of immunization as required will be denied entry to the ceremony,” the website said. “The full guidance issued by New York state can be found online.”

According to BU’s Commencement webpage, the University is planning on providing rapid antigen testing to students and guests before the ceremony, but those who test positive will not be permitted entry.

Traditionally, graduates would walk the stage wearing graduation caps and gowns, but Fauci said the University is making an exception this year.

“While we want to make this a celebratory event, we also understand it is much different than a regular Commencement ceremony and not as formal,” Fauci wrote. “And, with everything that is different and unusual this year, this is a requirement we felt we could lift for this year only. We still require that students wear business casual clothes. The suggestions and limitations are listed on the Commencement webpage. Regalia is still required, however, for the Doctoral Ceremony and the PharmD ceremony.”

Ryan Flood Taylor, a senior majoring in environmental science, felt he benefited from the new dress code.

“I did not buy a cap and gown, and I’m really happy to not pay the money for something I won’t need again,” Flood Taylor wrote in an email. “I will just wear my high school graduation cap (which is also green) and a business casual outfit.”

As Commencement day approaches, the Office of Commencement encourages families and guests that are traveling to make refundable travel plans in preparation for the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“The occurrence of all Commencement activities will depend on [New York state] guidelines and number of COVID-19 cases on campus at the time of the event,” the website read. “Guests who are making travel and hotel arrangements are encouraged to make reservations that are refundable.”

Despite the uncertainty, Isabel Londono, ‘20, a second-year graduate student studying public administration, is excited to have a second chance to walk the stage.

“I am happy with the decision the University made to host socially distanced ceremonies,” Londono said. “I graduated last year as well, and I can say that I am already more excited about celebrating my accomplishments with an event in person because [it is] so much better than graduating from my couch. I am looking forward to walking across the stage and having my parents and friends cheering for me and my accomplishments.”