Brendan W. Clark ’21
Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 will proceed in-person in two consecutive ceremonies on the College’s main quadrangle to reduce density, according to an email from President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney Monday morning. Citing the pandemic conditions, Reunion celebrations for this year, as well as a celebration to mark the Class of 2020, have been postponed or will otherwise occur virtually.
Berger-Sweeney indicated that graduates will “be allowed two guests” and will be “assigned to a ceremony based on campus residence location.” Students on the southern side of campus will participate in a morning ceremony and students on the northern side of campus, as well as IDP, graduate, and off-campus students, will participate in an afternoon ceremony. The times of the ceremonies were not immediately available.
COVID-19 protocols will remain in effect, including “continued COVID-19 testing for students who are on campus,” required negative COVID tests for students on-campus, negative test results and proof of vaccinations for all guests, face covering requirements, symptom checks, and physical distancing.
The date of Commencement was changed from May 23to May 21 to “reduce the number of days between finals and Commencement and maximize our ability to safely host a large-scale, in-person event” according to Berger-Sweeney.
The College also cancelled in-person Reunion festivities for this year. In a separate letter released Monday, Berger-Sweeney added that she is “sure this decision comes as no surprise to many of you; we are just unable to accommodate a few thousand alumni and guests in a safe and responsible manner.”
Reunion classes postponed from last year (those years ending in 0 and 5) will “celebrate virtually this June 10-13, 2021.” This year’s scheduled Reunion classes (those years ending in 1 and 6) will “wait until June 2022 to come back to campus with fellow alumni from next year’s cycle (those years ending in 2s and 7s). Berger-Sweeney noted that the College will “find ways” to bring back alumni celebrating their important 25th and 50th Reunions (the Class of 1970 and the Class of 1995).
For the in-person Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021, guests from out of state “will be expected to adhere to Connecticut’s COVID-19 travel policies,” though it was not immediately clear which policies would remain in force in May given Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s decision last week to rescind extensive guidance and adjust capacity limitations.
The ubiquitous “Tent City” and other events that accompany Commencement will not occur, as the College “cannot safely host any post-commencement celebrations on campus.” It was not immediately clear if Honor’s Day ceremonies would proceed in-person. The College did not provide comment when asked how they would regulate any social gatherings that may occur at adjacent campus locations, but did indicate that, regarding “Senior Week” activities, the College would “work with the senior class to make plans for any activities and to put in the appropriate health and safety protocols.”
While current state regulations would not permit outdoor gatherings of this size, the Tripod spoke to Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas Monday evening who indicated that the College’s work “continues to be guided by state directives and guidance.” Rojas added that he continues “to participate in weekly calls with Covid coordinators from other state colleges and universities and on another weekly call with the Department of Public Health.”
Commencement and other senior activities for the Class of 2020, originally rescheduled to May 2021 following their cancellation last year, will not proceed this year because of the “ongoing pandemic and challenging conditions.” Berger-Sweeney did indicate that the College is working with the Class of 2020’s “leadership and planning other opportunities to bring them together and celebrate them.”
In a separate letter to members of the Class of 2020 Monday afternoon, Berger-Sweeney added that the “prime reason is that our current students continue to participate in comprehensive, on-campus testing and safety protocols,” whereas graduates do not.
Rojas echoed these comments, indicating that “we 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.” Berger-Sweeney also added in her letter that the College has “discussed possibilities of an in-person celebration in the summer of ’22 or during the college’s Bicentennial celebration in 2023.”
Berger-Sweeney indicated that she was pleased to offer the College’s “most cherished tradition and the annual occasion we look forward to more than any other” in person. The College separately indicated that graduating students will “be expected to move out and depart campus immediately following the Commencement ceremony they participate in.” Precise move-out details were not immediately available, but “will follow,” according to Berger-Sweeney’s email.
The plans are “subject to change if conditions or mandates from local or state officials require.”
The College separately indicated that a Town Hall event would occur for “graduating students and their families in the coming weeks.”