Morgan State prepares for in-person commencement ceremony for class of 2020, 2021

Today marks the beginning of three ceremonies that will recognize graduates from both last year and this year.


Courtesy of Twitter

Hughes Memorial Stadium is prepped for the graduation ceremonies a day before the events.

Trae Mitchell and Aziah Siid

May 2021 Graduate Mia Hickman can finally let out a sigh of relief as she prepares to cross the stage with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

“I know that my hard work has paid off, so to see or hear an acknowledgment of that I think is what I’m sort of most excited for,” Hickman said. “I know I graduated, and I put in the work in my classes, but now the university is saying ‘we recognize your achievements.’”

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Morgan State University to hold a virtual commencement exercise. This year, Morgan will hold three in-person ceremonies from May 14 to 15 for 2020 and 2021 graduates in the Hughes Memorial Stadium on campus, according to a university news release.

On Saturday, May 14, the university will have a morning ceremony for 2020 undergraduates and an afternoon ceremony for 2020 and 2021 master’s or doctoral degrees. On Sunday, May 15, the university will hold a socially distanced commencement ceremony for 2021 undergraduates.

For all three ceremonies, students will be allowed to invite two guests.

This announcement came after Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott released a statement permitting in-person ceremonies for Baltimore colleges and universities following Baltimore City Health Department guidelines.

The guidelines state that colleges and universities must hold ceremonies in an outdoor venue at 25% capacity and guests must wear masks and sign in for contact tracing.

Edwin Johnson, the special assistant to the provost, said Morgan would track attendees through ticket registration for guests and check-ins for graduates.

“It’s not a perfect system because Morgan is an open campus,” Johnson said. “So there, of course, is the opportunity for students and people who have absolutely nothing to do with graduation to just show up.”

Johnson said that even with this, the university will have a reasonably accurate account of those attending and participating in graduation.

This announcement was long-awaited by Morgan students and their families. The delayed certainty in commencement plans frustrated many graduating students and their families.

“I think the most stressful part about it so to speak was like ‘what’s happening with graduation?” Hickman said. “In my opinion I feel like the university waited a little while in regard to what we’d be doing and that was kind of irritating because you have to tell people what the plan is in advance.”

Kevin Banks, vice president of student affairs, said the university delayed commencement plans to comply with the city and state and give graduates a semi-normal experience.

“While we’re falling under the rules of what the governor says, we’re also under the executive orders of the mayor,” Banks said.

Banks said initially, the capacity limit given to Baltimore colleges and universities was so restrictive that students could not invite guests.

“These are some very difficult times,” Banks said. “But we understand the significance of going across that stage.”