Haverford is currently planning to hold the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 outdoors on May 29, with no more than two guests per graduating senior. The details were sent out in a March 8 announcement by Franklyn Cantor, special assistant to the President’s Office, to the senior class.
Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s commencement was a big departure from all previous years’ ceremonies. There was a broadcast that the Class of 2020 could watch at homes with their families, but it did not match the grandeur of a traditional college graduation. Notably, the names of the graduating seniors were not read aloud or even presented on a screen.
Jake Murray ’20, remembers feeling “pretty apathetic” towards commencement saying, “We [Murray and his friends] were a bit surprised when it was over. We didn’t really feel like we graduated for a pretty long time, even when we got our diplomas, it was pretty odd.” Another student in the Class of 2020, who asked to remain anonymous, was more upset by the commencement: “Nothing could make up for the disappointment and grief I felt for not being able to finish in person and have closure. The ceremony felt like a slap in the face, even though I know the administration was trying to do their best.”
In an email interview with Cantor, he acknowledged that this year’s graduation will still look different from the traditional ceremonies because of the health and safety protocols, but noted that the college is also striving towards “ensuring a meaningful and celebratory occasion for the Class of 2021 and their loved ones.” Hanna Kopits ’21, one of three students on the Commencement Committee, said “the committee hopes to put together events that can give seniors closure to a very wild ride.”
Since December 2020, the committee has aimed to have an in-person ceremony. The permissibility of in-person attendance might vary between groups of students. Those attending class in-person are most likely to be able to attend in-person, while remote students and students who finished college in the fall 2020 semester will be less prioritized.
The presence of guests at this year’s commencement is still unknown. At a maximum, there will be two guests per graduate. This means that many grandparents, siblings, and other close family and friends, will miss out on the opportunity to see their Class of 2021 relative graduate. In order to account for this, for the first time ever, there will be a live stream of the commencement.
For those who cannot follow along due to language barriers, Cantor said, “We are still evaluating options for how to best include those who speak languages other than English. We will publish translated programs in both Spanish and Mandarin (both in print and online).” Seniors can request translations in additional languages.
May 29, 2021 is the scheduled day for Commencement, rain or shine. The date reflects the overall change in this spring’s academic calendar, with everything being held two weeks later than usual. Another change from past years will be the commencement ceremony’s venue. While the exact location is yet to be determined, it will be held in a large outdoor space to accommodate hundreds of students and potential guests in a COVID-safe manner.
In the wake of seniors waiting eagerly for an update, Cantor has promised that more details will be shared on April 1. This time around, lingering questions about guests and student attendance will be answered. Additional information pertinent to seniors, like senior week and move-out, may also be part of the update.