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Its not “to shake or not to shake.” Its To dis or not to dis.

To shake or not to shake: That is the question for colleges and universities trying to celebrate graduation while avoiding a flu pandemic.

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.

School officials decided that despite cases of H1N1 in the state – including one confirmed case at ISU – the symbolism of the handshake was more important than the slight risk of passing the virus.
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Other Iowa colleges and universities have been grappling with the same question this week, with most schools deciding to keep the handshakes.

A few universities across the country have nixed the traditional glad-handing at commencement ceremonies because of fears the action could transmit the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu.

“There’s been a lot of ‘Should we shake or should we not?’ ” said Kate Guess, spokeswoman for UNI. “Handshakes are on.”

Iowa Department of Public Health officials do not believe handshaking poses a great risk of virus transmission, said spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm. However, she advised students and administrators to wash their hands before and after the ceremonies or use hand sanitizer.

“There’s a lot of tradition and ceremony” at graduation, said ISU spokeswoman Annette Hacker. “You hate to lose that, but we’re trying to put measures in place to keep people healthy.”

The University of Iowa does not plan any changes for its graduation ceremonies May 14 through 17.

Northwest Missouri State University President Dean Hubbard told about 470 graduates at two May ceremonies in Maryville, Mo., that he would not shake their hands because of the H1N1 virus. Hubbard quipped to the crowds that he had considered an Asian-inspired bow or some other greeting, but he decided against it, said Northwest Missouri State spokesman Anthony Brown.

“There was some talk in the hallway afterward, ‘You know what the president did?’ ” Brown said. “My feeling was there was very little comment about it one way or another.”

Many of Iowa’s private colleges are adopting a wait-and-see approach.

“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. But the college is following its pandemic preparedness and response plan and will alter plans for the May 24 commencement if necessary, he said.

Many colleges and universities will offer live Webcasts of their ceremonies, which would allow family members who are ill to watch from home, said Duane Beeson, spokesman for Northwestern College in Orange City.

Colleges and universities have been seeking a balance between public health and tradition for decades.

The U of I canceled an Oct. 12, 1918, football game against Northwestern University because of the Spanish flu, according to a 1983 column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen by late Iowa City historian Irving Weber.

The Hawkeyes substituted a game with Coe College but didn’t let any fans in to watch. Iowa won the game 25-0, even though three first-string Hawkeyes were down with the flu, Weber wrote.

via:desmoinesregister

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