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Major SC colleges holding in-person graduations after mass gathering rules lifted

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CofC Graduation20.JPG (copy)

College of Charleston graduates make their way across the stage to receive their diplomas during a commencement ceremony at the Cistern Yard in 2018. The school will hold a graduates-only ceremonies in the yard in May. File/Staff 

COLUMBIA — The University of South Carolina will hold in-person graduation ceremonies at Williams-Brice Stadium in May — another sign of a return to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

USC joins South Carolina's largest colleges in allowing families and friends to attend commencement. This comes a year after those ceremonies were postponed or canceled in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Most schools are holding their ceremonies outdoors, which is seen as a way to reduce chances of the virus spreading in crowds. 

USC will spread out attendees in the football stadium's seats for three separate ceremonies on May 7 and May 8, the state's largest college announced. Graduates will have seats on the field.

"Graduates, I’m very happy to celebrate with you all. See you at Willy B!" USC President Bob Caslen tweeted, using a nickname for Williams-Brice Stadium.

The school held virtual commencements in 2020.

USC will hold a separate recognition ceremony for 2020 grads at Williams-Brice on May 15.

"While degrees were already conferred at virtual ceremonies, you and select guests are invited to celebrate your accomplishment alongside your classmates," the school says on its website.

Clemson University, the state's second-largest school, will hold 12 separate commencement ceremonies over four days at Bon Secours Wellness Arena from May 5-8 in Greenville.

Three graduations will be held each day with the arena being disinfected and sanitized between ceremonies. Clemson held winter graduation events at the arena in December.

The College of Charleston is giving graduates a choice of ceremonies in the spring. 

A commencement where family and friends can attend will be held at the Patriots Point Soccer Stadium on May 6. The college also is holding ceremonies on the Cistern Yard without guests on May 7-8. The events will be livestreamed to downtown satellite locations.

Coastal Carolina University in Conway is conducting graduation ceremonies in Brooks Stadium, where the football team plays, May 7-8. 

Winthrop University in Rock Hill will hold five in-person ceremonies inside Winthrop Coliseum on May 6-8.

The decision to hold in-person graduations across South Carolina comes after Gov. Henry McMaster lifted restrictions on mass gatherings this month. He cited falling coronavirus case numbers and increased COVID-19 vaccine availability for ending the rules.

Still, the state ranked fifth in the nation for new cases per 100,000 people in the latest White House weekly data.

Follow Andy Shain on Facebook (andyshain12) and Twitter (@andyshain)

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