May 9, 2009

Colleges weigh handshakes amid swine flu

Outbreaks of the swine flu have affected college graduation ceremonies in the United States, with schools wondering if the traditional handshake is in order.

The Des Moines (Iowa) Register reported Saturday that at the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University commencements this weekend, graduates will be asked to use hand sanitizer before walking onto the stage to shake the hands of university presidents and other officials.

The newspaper said school officials decided that the symbolism of the handshake was more important than the slight risk of passing the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu.

However, universities across the country have cut out the traditional handshake at commencement ceremonies because of fears the action could transmit the virus.

Northwest Missouri State University President Dean Hubbard told about 470 graduates at two May ceremonies that he would not shake their hands because of the H1N1 virus.

Other schools are taking a wait-and-see approach, the newspaper reported.

We are not changing any dates or procedures regarding course schedules, activities and events, finals week, or commencement, said Jerry Johnson, spokesman for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.