Handshakes are on hold this graduation

Updated: May 3 2009, 06:37am hrs
Swine flu means no handshake for you. Thats the message thousands of college graduates, including more than 5,200 at the University of South Florida (USF), will get along with their diplomas.

USF president Judy Genshaft decided to take the unprecedented step of forgoing the tradition out of a concern for public health. She has always shaken the hand of every USF graduate, USF spokeswoman Vickie Chachere said. For her, this is a big deal. USF administrators had planned to have hand-sanitising stations available for graduates before they went on stage and after they left the stage. But later they decided the risk was too great even for that.

The president will take photos with each graduate, but the traditional handshake by the president or dean and CEO will not occur during all commencement ceremonies, according to a memo sent by Cynthia S Visot, Genshafts chief of staff.

Hand-sanitising stations will be provided so graduates can clean their hands after touching the rail as they climb to the stage.

USF isnt alone . Northeastern University in Boston, Central Maine Community College and California State University Channel Islands also have declared ceremonies to be handshake-free events. At Florida A&M University, where former President Bill Clinton is to speak to some of the 1,200 students graduating on Sunday, hand sanitiser and surgical masks will be provided to anyone who wants one. Hillsborough Community College president Gwendolyn Stephenson also wont be shaking hands with students during graduation ceremonies. Genshaft worried about the possibility of shaking the hand of an infected graduate, then passing a virus on to someone else. NY Times / Richard Danielson