As If Campuses Needed More Stress, There’s Inauguration 2021

With many colleges and universities beginning new semesters within days of the presidential inauguration this week, reminders are going out about existing wellness programs, taking personal safety precautions, and making use of the many virtual resources to celebrate the event during turbulent times.

Case Western Reserve University is offering a one-hour Zoom event, “Standing on Solid Ground during Political Unrest,” and at Sam Houston State University students are taking virtual tours across the southwestern United States to visit key sites related to the Civil Rights movement.

At the same time, campuses in the Washington, D.C., area are recognizing the January 20 date as a designated university holiday, and also closing COVID-19 testing centers immediately before, during, and after the event. Inauguration Day is a holiday for federal employees, which comes just two days after the January 18 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The Catholic University of America will recognize January 18-20 as three consecutive holidays, but it will also conduct a virtual panel discussion, “The Attack on U.S. Congress: Causes and Consequences” and a virtual presidential inauguration prayer service, both on January 19.

Georgetown University will also close its physical campus January 18-20, although the Leavey Student Center will operate dining services from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each of those days. “The university is coordinating closely with federal and local authorities on safety planning and we strongly recommend that all members of the Georgetown community follow the guidance of federal and local authorities. As you may know, based on safety and COVID-19 concerns, authorities and the Presidential Inaugural Committee recommend that everyone refrain from travel and participate in inaugural activities virtually. It is also strongly advised to avoid the downtown areas of Washington, DC, through this coming weekend and Inauguration Day,” said a statement from the campus emergency management office.

Officials at the University of Nebraska–Omaha were among many across campuses nationwide condemning the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and urging faculty, staff, and students to take advantage of counseling and psychological services and to know how to access bias and hate reporting websites.

“As you may have seen in news reports, federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and statehouses around the country are now placed on high alert ahead of Inauguration Day, preparing for the possibility of similar incidents,” said University of Nebraska Chancellor Jeffrey Gold. “Please know that we are working closely with our public safety teams and other leaders to keep our campus community safe. I also encourage everyone to stay safe, speak with kindness, empathy, and focus on what we can each do to create positive change while making our voices heard.”

The pandemic is affecting typical Inauguration Day ceremonies as health and safety concerns limit the usual inauguration crowds. Despite the siege on the U.S. Capitol, President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office on the Capitol steps. After the swearing-in ceremonies, Biden will deliver his inaugural address, then a “pass in review,” a military tradition reflecting the peaceful transfer of power in which Biden inspects the readiness of our troops, will take place. Biden will then be escorted by the military to the White House.

A virtual parade has been scheduled that, according to the inaugural committee, “will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era.” For more information about the event, follow @BidenInaugural on social media or visit

Actor Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime television special on Jan. 20 to celebrate Biden’s inauguration. “Celebrating America” will feature appearances by celebrities including Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, and Ant Clemons, and Biden and Harris also will deliver remarks. The program will be broadcast on television networks CBS, ABC, CNN, NBC and MSNBC, and streamed on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms.

The nonprofit public affairs network C-SPAN is also offering a number of virtual activities and programs, including an inauguration bingo game, an inaugural address rubric evaluation, guest speakers discussing historic inaugural addresses, and a note-taking chart.

The Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement, which was founded in response to President Barack Obama’s call to improve the lives of boys and men of color facing educational disparities is offering a 90-minute video, “Insurrection at the Capitol: Justice and Reconciliation on our Campuses and in our Nation,” that examines the viewpoints and perspectives that led to the insurrection at the Capitol. The speakers also offer recommendations for college and university leaders on how to advocate for justice and reconciliation on campuses.


  • Steve Chaplin

    Steve Chaplin is managing editor of ACUI’s The Bulletin and manager of the ACUI College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. A former newspaper writer, editor, and manager, he has volunteered as a student mentor as a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and received awards for his writing and reporting from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Press Association.

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