After nearly a year of patience, Seton Hall’s Class of 2020 may finally receive an in-person commencement ceremony this spring, the University announced on Tuesday afternoon.
The ceremonies, which the University says are contingent on New Jersey not tightening pandemic restrictions, will take place at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, continuing a Seton Hall graduation tradition that was interrupted last year by the coronavirus.
“Like much of the planning and decisions the University has made over the past several months, Commencement decisions took into account a wide range of opinions and ideas,” the University said in an email to 2020 graduates who registered for a slot. “Planning for the Class of 2020 Commencement has been guided by a 30-member committee, comprised of a wide range of University representatives, including students.”
Last year’s seniors will have the opportunity to graduate in person at three different ceremonies on April 30 at 6:30 p.m., May 1 at 10:30 a.m. and May 1 at 4:30 p.m.
Seton Hall initially announced that in-person celebrations for the Class of 2020 would be held outdoors on the South Orange campus’s Galleon Lawn but said on Tuesday that New Jersey’s easing of capacity restrictions allowed them to change the venue.
In February, Gov. Phil Murphy raised the capacity limits on indoor arenas with over 5,000 seats to 10%, allowing the Prudential Center to seat between 1,600 to 1,800 people under the current guidelines.
“I’m pretty excited that we get to end our journey at Seton Hall somewhere so meaningful,” Rishi Shah ‘20, former president of the Student Government Association, said of the announcement.
Shah, who also serves on the commencement planning committee, added that being able to hold a ceremony at the Prudential Center was always the hope of the administration and the committee
According to Shah, each ceremony is expected to accommodate up to 275 students, with potentially up to four guests per graduate. That would set the maximum capacity for each of the three commencements at 1,375 people in attendance -- though specific details of the ceremonies are still being finalized.
The University has not yet announced any specifics with regard to capacity restrictions on the commencement website, other than to say that it will “to monitor State of NJ guidelines,” and that plans “are contingent upon continued governmental approval for such an event and health and safety considerations at the time.”
“I’m really surprised Seton Hall held to their promise and is doing a decent graduation,” Alexandra Wells, a 2020 graduate, said. “I’m pleased it’s at the Prudential Center, but I still really wish they would’ve waited until the summer months when the majority of Americans are vaccinated.”
Wells added that she was hoping her boyfriend would be able to attend the ceremony with her, but because he is not vaccinated yet, that does not appear to be possible.
“I’m sure a fair amount of people have that issue,” she said.
The University said on its website that plans for the Class of 2021's commencement are still being finalized and told seniors to monitor their email for further information about the venue and dates. No further information has been made available so far.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr.