KU, Baker will have multiple commencement ceremonies over two weekends; Haskell silent on plans

photo by: Richard Gwin/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 15, 2016, University of Kansas mascot Big Jay is dressed in graduation regalia during KU's commencement.

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of commencement celebrations last spring, at least two universities in Douglas County have elected to host commencements this May celebrating the classes of 2021 and 2020.

The University of Kansas and Baker University will both hold commencement celebrations over two different weekends in May. Douglas County’s other university, Haskell Indian Nations University, has not yet released any plans about graduation.


KU will host three graduation ceremonies in one day for its 2021 graduates this spring.

On Sunday, May 16, graduation ceremonies will take place at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., according to a message sent out to graduates last week.

When KU first announced its tentative graduation plans in February, Chancellor Douglas Girod wrote that having multiple ceremonies in one day would help the university comply with health guidelines related to mass gatherings. Last week, however, Douglas County leaders approved a new health order that eliminated the mass-gathering limit.

The county’s new health order will not significantly affect KU’s plans, spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said. She said the major components of the commencement plans were announced to students on April 9 and that registration began on April 14, the day the County Commission approved the new health order.

“Even if the new health order had not been approved, we are comfortable with the plans we have in place that prioritize the health and safety for our graduates and guests,” Barcomb-Peterson wrote in an email to the Journal-World.

The 10:30 a.m. commencement session has already reached capacity with approximately 1,800 registered students, Barcomb-Peterson said. Students who have not yet chosen their session may choose from either of the later times. Each student may bring up to six guests, and Barcomb-Peterson said any KU student who registered to participate in graduation would have the opportunity to attend one of the sessions.

KU will clean David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium between the three ceremonies on May 16. Barcomb-Peterson said KU knows “how to create a clean and socially distanced environment” because of its experience hosting football games in the stadium in the fall and basketball games in Allen Fieldhouse this past season.

Further safety precautions will include:

• Guests have been asked not to congregate on the Hill, along Memorial Drive or near the Campanile;

• Upon parking or taking a shuttle to campus, guests have been asked to go directly to Memorial Stadium;

• Guests are expected to adhere to masking and social-distancing requirements;

• Graduates and guests who attend the first two commencement sessions are asked to leave campus immediately after the sessions end.

Following the May 16 commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021, KU will also host one commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 on May 23. Barcomb-Peterson said about 1,200 graduates from the class of 2020 have registered to participate in the May 23 ceremony.

“We can safely host these students and their guests with one session,” she wrote.

In addition to hosting in-person celebrations, KU will also livestream the events. For more information about graduation, go to commencement.ku.edu.

Baker University

Baker University will hold commencement ceremonies in person at Liston Stadium. Similar to KU, Baker will host graduation ceremonies the weekend of May 15 and the weekend of May 22, and Baker will honor graduates from this year and last year.

For more information about graduation, go to bakeru.edu/commencement.

Haskell Indian Nations University

Haskell Indian Nations University has not released information about its commencement plans.

Haskell students have been learning remotely for the entire school year because of the pandemic. It is unclear whether graduating seniors will be invited back to campus for an in-person commencement or if Haskell will elect to do a virtual celebration.

Haskell President Ronald Graham and vice president of academics Melanie Daniel did not respond to the Journal-World’s questions regarding commencement. The Bureau of Indian Education and Bureau of Indian Affairs also did not respond.


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