On Campus

Syracuse University aiming for in-person spring 2021 commencement

Emily Steinberger | Photo Editor

SU’s reopening of the Dome to fans last weekend shows its ability to safely host larger events.

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Syracuse University is planning for an in-person commencement in May, though it may not be in the Carrier Dome.

Holding an in-person ceremony ultimately depends on guidance from the state and the public health situation, said Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie at a press briefing Wednesday. But SU’s reopening of the Dome to fans last weekend shows its ability to safely host larger events, which sets the stage for a potential in-person commencement, he said.

SU allowed fans for a men’s lacrosse game, where attendees took two COVID-19 tests prior to entry and sat socially distanced inside.

“What we’re doing right now is setting the conditions for us to be able to have a significant number of guests into that stadium for a commencement in May,” Haynie said. “We have very publicly promised our students a commencement. The university is committed to doing right by those promises.”

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The ceremony wouldn’t necessarily be in the Dome, as some of the university’s outdoor spaces may be more suitable to accommodate the large crowd, Haynie said. A team of SU officials is currently reviewing possible plans for commencement and will announce their findings on April 1, said Sarah Scalese, senior associate vice president for university communications at the press briefing.

“The stadium is off the table until we can prove to the state that we can open it,” Haynie said.

SU has also made preparations to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to students on campus once they’re eligible, if the state allows the university to do so. The university has secured freezers necessary to store vaccines — at minus 80 degrees — and SU’s health staff is trained in administering the shots. 

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“We have told the state that we’re ready. Give us the vaccine, and we’ll take care of the SU campus population,” Haynie said. 

Enhanced COVID-19 testing has made a significant difference in contact tracing this semester, Haynie said. The university has conducted upwards of 75,000 tests on campus as of yesterday and has returned results after an average of 17 hours, he said. 

Haynie said he’s hopeful that, by the fall semester, the university will be able to reopen indoor spaces closer to normal capacity and will not need as frequent testing. 

“We’re in the last hundred yards,” Haynie said. “If we could keep it together, do what we need to do, there is normalcy to come,” Haynie said. 



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