Jack P. Carroll ’24
President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney provided an update on Trinity’s Commencement plans for the Class of 2020 in an email addressed to 2020 graduates on Thursday, Apr. 15. In the email, Berger-Sweeney confirmed that the College will be hosting an “in-person gathering” for Reunion Weekend 2022 on Saturday, June 11 2022. Citing a survey with a 60 percent response rate, Berger-Sweeney reported that the previous date “was the first and second most selected and received the fewest third choice votes.”
Additionally, Berger-Sweeney indicated that the College’s celebration plans for the Class of 2020 will include a “reception, a brunch for graduates and their families, and our traditional Senior Brick Dedication ceremony.” Furthermore, on-campus housing will be provided to graduates at no cost, and funds may be made available “on a limited basis” to help pay travel costs for those who need financial assistance.
This decision came after Berger-Sweeney indicated in a message to 2020 graduates that the College would not host Commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 this May. The Tripod reported in March that Berger-Sweeney attributed the delay to the fact that “that our current students continue to participate in comprehensive, on-campus testing and safety protocols,” whereas graduates do not. At the time, Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas told the Tripod that the College “can’t guarantee the same [protocols] for 2020 graduates” and, despite the progress, “there is still uncertainty that led to a decision to not attempt to bring additional individuals back to campus for an additional major event.”
In Apr. 2020, the Tripod reported that Trinity had postponed Commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 until after the 2020-2021 academic year. In an email sent out to students announcing the College’s decision, Berger-Sweney cited the “environment of uncertainty and the likelihood that social and travel restrictions will be in place in the months ahead.” At that time, Berger-Sweeney indicated that Trinity would seek to offer the “excitement and customs of a traditional Commencement Weekend in 2021,” including an Honors Day ceremony, Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony, and post-Commencement celebrations, though those exercises were again delayed in March.
Following Berger-Sweeney’s Apr. 2020 announcement, the Tripod reported that a group of Trinity College seniors led by Avery Stern ‘20, Maggie O’Meara ‘20, and Claire Hall-Tipping ‘20 had drafted a petition urging the College administration to reconsider postponing the Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony to the summer of 2021. The petition, which garnered 879 signatures at the time the article was published, requested a “summer/early fall 2020 graduation and a spring 2021 graduation as a last resort option.”
However, not all students supported the aims of the petition. The same article reported that one post shared by a member of the Class of 2020 expressed their belief that a summer or fall Commencement would raise serious health concerns, calling the petition “stupid.” Another senior responded stating, “if people don’t agree, no need to sign it. It’s simple. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion.”
In response to the petition, Rojas echoed Berger-Sweeney’s initial concerns stating that while the College “completely understand[s] how these students and their supporters feel about commencement being postponed,” the decision was made in part because of the “significant uncertainty about what social distancing and travel restrictions will remain in place through the summer and into the fall.”