Why are less guests allowed at PhD graduation ceremonies?

The Academiegebouw building. Photo: DUB

Why is the university allowing large amounts of people to take exams in the same room, but PhD graduates may only bring three guests to their graduation ceremonies? This question was recently raised in a meeting of the University Council Committee on Education, Research, and Student Affairs. The council members wanted to know the reasoning behind the stricter policy, which was announced around a month ago.

Rector Henk Kummeling replied that more than two hundred people from across the country were coming to the Academiegebouw building daily to attend graduation ceremonies. Unfortunately, many of them did not follow the corona rules, despite the efforts of corona coordinators and security. One of the building’s employees even contracted the virus, although it’s not possible to know for sure whether he caught it at work.

According to the rector, the university was forced to conclude that things couldn’t go on the way they were. That’s why only partners, parents, supervisors, the chairman of the graduation committee, and possible paranymphs are allowed to attend the ceremonies now.

Keeping distance
Beadle Paulien van der Veer welcomes the new policy. “With six ceremonies a day, we ended up seeing a lot of people,” she explains. Van der Veer thinks that most people have a hard time following the corona regulations, which was evidenced by the guests’ behaviour at the Academiegebouw. “It’s harder to understand what people say when they’re wearing a face mask, so people are inclined to move closer together, thus disrespecting the metre-and-a-half rule. Additionally, people are happy to see each other in a graduation ceremony.”

Reactions vary when you call guests out on their conduct, van der Veer reports. “Some people say sorry and immediately correct themselves, but others just look at you like ‘bugger off’”

Although fewer guests are allowed, the ceremonies are being live-streamed so that friends and acquaintances can attend it online. There’s no reception afterwards, but the tradition to take a picture on the stairs remains. “We strive to make most things run as normally as possible. People are happy that graduation ceremonies are still going on, albeit in this format, because the alternative would be to do everything online.”