Wisconsin bill would require UW system to allow parents at commencement in 2021

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — A bill introduced this week by a Wisconsin state senator would require the University of Wisconsin system to allow parents at in-person commencements in 2021.

Several UW system schools, including Madison and La Crosse, have made plans for in-person events for graduates without spectators.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere) and cosponsored by 15 representatives in the Assembly. It has currently been referred to the Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges.

According to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau, the bill would force each school in the UW system to allow the parent or guardian of a graduating student to attend the student’s in-person commencement ceremony in 2021. It only applies if the student’s UW institution holds an in-person commencement.

If passed, the bill could force UW-La Crosse to change its plans. The university currently plans to hold an in-person commencement for graduates May 15 at the La Crosse Center, but without spectators in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain Centers for Disease Control guidelines that limit the size of gatherings.

“UWL is excited to celebrate our outstanding graduates at our in-person commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 15. For health and safety reasons, no spectators will be allowed at the events, which were planned in consultation with the La Crosse County Health Department. However, the events will be livestreamed and recorded,” said the university in a statement. “In normal times, we would fill the La Crosse Center with our students’ friends and families. But these are not normal times. Health and safety must come first.”

Western Technical College is hosting a drive-through ceremony Saturday at Riverside Park.