The University of Alabama held a combined commencement ceremony for the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 graduating classes this weekend in Coleman Coliseum. This decision came after UA President Stuart Bell's early April decision to postpone a full-fledged ceremony.

"Commencement is a milestone marking the end of one valuable journey while forging the beginning of a new, promising path," Bell said at the time. "Although our plans must be contingent on how our summer health outlook progresses, we are moving forward to include our spring graduates in our summer commencement events."

Nine ceremonies were held over the course of three days with anywhere between more than 3,000 graduates participating. Each graduate was tasked with allocating a maximum of four tickets to chosen guests.

Ensuring safety for guests was a top priority for UA -- face coverings over the nose and mouth were required before admission, and upon entering the Coliseum, groups of guests were ushered to seating blocks spaced at least six feet apart with a majority of parties having entire rows to themselves. Hand sanitizer was stationed regularly throughout the Coliseum, water fountains and concessions were closed off and the entire building was sanitized after every ceremony.

Graduates similarly were required to have masks on through the entirety of the ceremony. Upon entering the waiting area at the Crisp Practice Facility beside the Coliseum, students were ushered down a roped-off path, where they were each given an identification card to use once on stage as they were not organized in alphabetical order.

Credit: Noah Lueker

Students were spaced six feet apart while waiting, walking to and sitting in the Coliseum. From there, they were each handed their diploma case, they walked single file across the stage and got their picture with President Bell, standing six feet apart, both of them wearing their masks. Once off the stage, each student and their guests were instructed to exit the building.

Despite a condensed ceremony, with speakers and singers appearing on pre-recorded videos, President Bell recognized the need to acknowledge the graduates' accomplishments.

"While this pandemic has affected us, our ways of teaching and learning... Or even how we continue many of our traditions, it has not diminished your progress, your achievements, or your future impact," Bell said. "As graduates of the class of 2020, your resolve has already been tested."

While the exact details of hybrid learning in the fall are still up in the air, the University's first true test into resumed meetings, seen here with Commencement, showed a self-aware, active step towards ensuring a comfortable 'new normal.'

To view all archived ceremonies, visit UA's Commencement website.

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