USC announced Thursday that in person-commencement ceremonies will be held for the classes of 2020 and 2021 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum over a nearly two-week span in May, but only students residing in California will be allowed to attend due to state restrictions.

“Commencement is one of the most cherished ceremonies in a student’s academic life. It’s the single time when we come together as a community to celebrate years of hard work by our graduates,” USC President Carol Folt said in a university-wide email sent Thursday afternoon.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 kept USC and most other universities from offering in-person ceremonies last year. Today, I am delighted to let you know that we have received permission from state authorities to host in-person commencement celebrations this spring for the graduating classes of both 2020 and 2021.”

University officials are “actively working with state officials to see if there is any avenue to allow out-of-state residents to attend the ceremonies,” according to Folt.

“For those who cannot join us in Los Angeles, everything we do in-person will also be broadcast online, live and on-demand for future viewing,” she said. “The university is building a new digital platform to host a memorable, feature-rich remote experience with the objective of delivering an unforgettable experience for everyone. Every school will host a virtual celebration for its graduates on May 13.”

To comply with state restrictions on density and rules for cleaning following each ceremony, graduations will be scheduled twice a day from May 14 to May 25 and each student will be allowed two guests.

Due to distancing requirements, it will not be possible to hood doctoral candidates, according to Folt, who said hooding ceremonies will take place at a future time when restrictions are lifted.

All ceremonies will combine elements of USC’s traditional main graduation ceremony with those of individual schools and colleges, according to the statement. Every graduate will be invited to one ceremony with their specific school or degree program cohort.

Graduates will have the opportunity to cross the stage, hear their names read, receive their diplomas, and have their photos taken while projected on the screens at the stadium.

“As soon as we determine the number of graduates who plan to attend, we will be able to produce a schedule with the time and date for each ceremony by school,” Folt wrote. To finalize these plans, she said eligible graduates need to follow the instructions on the university’s commencement page and fill out the registration by April 1, even if they are not planning to attend.

“There are a number of questions you — and all of us — still have,” Folt said. “We will communicate additional details as soon as they are confirmed via our commencement page. In the meantime, please know that we are doing everything possible to produce an experience that balances both the challenges brought on by the pandemic, as well as the achievements of our incredible graduates, which deserve to be celebrated to the fullest extent possible.”

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