Hillsdale College conducted in-person graduation ceremonies Saturday despite a standing order from Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banning gatherings of more than 100 people.
The event, which also included three days of celebratory activities like dinners and music recitals, included safety precautions like social distancing, temperature checks and mandatory masks, which were given out at entrances, The Detroit News reported.
Graduate Christian Betz told The News that students were happy to comply.
Contrary to what some have said, Hillsdale College’s commencement tomorrow will fully comply with state law. Congrats to the 2020 grads! Honored to have helped with this. @Hillsdale https://t.co/feWxznToGI
— Ryan Walsh (@ryanjosephwalsh) July 17, 2020
“Students were wearing the masks,” Betz said. “[Hillsdale President Larry] Arnn’s speech during the first dinner talked about how this was our duty to protect one another, and for us to be able to come together, we have to be responsible.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office “reiterated Thursday organized gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited in the part of the state where Hillsdale College is located under an executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” according to The Detroit News.
However, Hillsdale County Sheriff Tim Parker told The News that his department would not enforce Whitmer’s order in this case and has not done so the entirety of the pandemic. (RELATED: ‘I Don’t Have Proof’: Whitmer Balks When Challenged By Reporter About Claim That Protests Are Spreading Coronavirus)
Justifying the decision, the school’s vice president and general counsel, Robert Norton, reportedly referred to a phrase in the governor’s order that states, “Nothing in this order shall be taken to abridge protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution under these emergency circumstances.”
“Since the beginning, Norton said, Whitmer has made it clear that ‘outdoor, first amendment expressive activities,’ like spontaneous protests, were exempt from the order,” The Detroit News reported.
Coronavirus cases have spiked in many places across the country, with Michigan exceeding 700 per day the past four days. The state reported nine deaths on Saturday.