College to hold in-person Commencement for Class of 2021, ceremony for Class of 2020 postponed

by Caitlin McCarthy and Madeleine Bernardeau | 2/2/21 3:37pm

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by Divya Kopalle / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The College will hold an in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 in early June, though only graduating students will be invited to attend. An in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020, which was previously rescheduled for this June, has been postponed indefinitely.

College President Phil Hanlon shared the updates via emails to the Class of 2021, Class of 2020 and the Dartmouth community on Tuesday morning and afternoon. The commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021, which was originally slated for June 13, will now be held during the week of June 6, with an exact date to be announced by the end of March. Senior Week festivities, which are typically held in the week leading up to Commencement, have yet to be announced.

Hanlon cited “continued travel and quarantine restrictions and the lack of global availability of a COVID-19 vaccine” as the rationale for limiting in-person attendance at this year’s ceremony. The date for the Class of 2020’s ceremony will be determined at a later time. 

In his email to the Class of 2021, Hanlon described the decision not to allow family and friends on campus for this year’s ceremony as the “most painful” of the announced changes to commencement celebrations. He noted that the College will livestream the ceremony and provide other opportunities for audience members “to partake in the festivities virtually.” 

Additionally, the College has encouraged guests of graduating students to cancel any existing travel arrangements to the Upper Valley.

Graduating students attending this year’s ceremony will be required to adhere to testing, quarantining, mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines. All graduating students, whether they have been living on or off campus, will be allowed to attend the ceremony in person, provided that they adhere to testing and quarantine requirements, though the option to attend virtually remains. 

In his email to the Class of 2020, Hanlon wrote that the Alumni Relations office will reach out “in the months ahead” to determine a date for an on-campus ceremony that “maximizes the number of [’20s] who are able to attend.”

“We share your disappointment,” Hanlon wrote to the Class of 2020. “Every one of you has earned the chance to celebrate your graduation with one another in the place that you love, here on the Hanover plain. Rest assured, that chance will come, just later than we’d planned.”

He stressed that the College will work to provide affordable on-campus housing for members of the Class of 2020 attending their in-person celebration — a primary concern voiced among the class in a survey administered by the College last spring.

In addition to the cancellation of this year’s ceremony for the Class of 2020, all 2021 alumni reunion events will be held virtually. Hanlon wrote that the College will seek “creative ways” to “maintain the special connection” between the 50th reunion class and the Class of 2021 as part of this year’s ceremony.