Even though there will be no crowds or diplomas on the stage, this year’s commencement will offer a chance for family and friends to celebrate their graduates around the globe via the internet. To add festivity to the occasion, UC Santa Cruz is holding an in-person stage crossing opportunity at an outdoor venue on campus, called Slug Crossing, for graduating students.

Participants of the Slug Crossing are required to be vaccinated at least two weeks before the event and receive a negative COVID-19 test result between 24 and 72 hours prior to their time slot. Students will need to complete a symptom check and wear a face covering at all times, except for when they cross the stage. Friends and family will not be allowed to join the Slug Crossing, but they can watch the walk via livestream.

The virtual commencement will vary between each college and academic division. Ceremonies will open with an introduction from campus faculties and student greetings in different languages. Afterward, student and commencement speakers will congratulate graduating students on their achievements. A slideshow featuring each graduate will be displayed while their names and messages are read aloud by professional name readers.

Students who graduated at the end of winter quarter 2021 can also participate in the 2021 commencement ceremony.

“I’m not much of a ceremony person,” said fourth-year sociology and psychology double major Will Franco. “But I was bummed when I thought that there wasn’t going to be a graduation, so I thought the virtual one would be a fun way to celebrate with my friends.” 

For some, having a virtual commencement brings excitement in one of the toughest times, while others are dismayed by the conclusion of their college experience.

As a fourth-year transfer student, Jonah Kulakofsky did not experience much of the student life on campus due to the pandemic. When he heard about the virtual commencement replacing an in-person graduation, he was disappointed. 

“I spent two years at community college working to get to a good four-year university. I burned a lot of hard work,” Kulakofsky said. “To graduate with just my name on a slide, it’s not the most thrilling idea. But it’s understandable.” 

Students like Kulakofsky are not the only people who shared this sentiment. Associate Professor and Cowell Provost Alan Christy didn’t realize how much in-person graduation ceremonies meant to him before they were cancelled or postponed.

Christy handed out diplomas and shook graduates’ hands at commencement for many years. He said he regrets not being able to with the students in person.

“It’s hard for me to know that I can’t do [commencement] in person and look them in the eye and say, ‘congratulations,’” said Christy. “Sometimes students will give me a quick hug and I’ll give them a hug back. It just feels very human. That’s one of the things that gives me the greatest joy is being there with them on this occasion.”

Christy said every now and then, there’s a class that lives through extraordinary times — the class of 2020 and 2021 included.

Graduating student Will Franco hopes that Slug Crossing will still give 2021 graduates a chance to celebrate and process this tumultuous last year online with their peers.   

“It’s been a really hard year for a lot of people, year and a half, even I myself have definitely gone through some really rough times, with this pandemic,” Franco said. “I don’t know if people are processing the fact that there’s a lot of grief around, like our last year has been online. I’m hoping that Slug Crossing will give people a chance to celebrate and also just process some feelings around the last year. So I’m very glad that we’re getting that chance.” 

The registration to participate in the virtual commencement is open until May 19. Dates to participate at the Slug Crossing can be selected through the registration.  

All ceremony links will go live at 12 p.m PST on Friday, June 11. The virtual commencement schedule can be found here.