In reversal, College to allow two guests per student at Commencement

Guests are “strongly recommended” to be fully vaccinated before attending the ceremony, and those traveling from outside of New England who are not vaccinated must quarantine.

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 5/5/21 3:51pm

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Dartmouth graduates for the upcoming 2021 Commencement and investiture ceremonies will now be allowed to invite two guests to one ceremony, President Hanlon wrote in an email to the Dartmouth community today. 

The change in policy, which comes over a month after the College reiterated plans to hold the ceremony without guests and roughly five weeks before the June 13 ceremonies, is due to the reduced COVID-19 cases regionally and nationally, the success of nationwide vaccination efforts, recent vaccine clinics open to the Dartmouth community and more flexible state and local guidelines, Hanlon wrote. 

Undergraduates will be allowed to bring a maximum of two guests; additionally, children five years old and younger will be able to sit on their parents’ laps and will not require tickets, according to the email. Graduate and professional school students will also be allowed to bring a maximum of two guests to their individual schools’ investiture or class day celebrations, but may not bring guests to the June 13 Commencement ceremony. 

Hanlon wrote that the deans of the professional and graduate schools will be in touch with their respective communities “shortly” to provide further detail. 

The Commencement ceremony will be held as planned at Memorial Stadium, which will be operating at “less than one-third the normal capacity,” according to the email. Guests will be seated in pairs, with two-seat gaps between pairs in each row and seats immediately in front of and behind guests left empty. Students will be seated on the field. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement that the Commencement ceremony will have a “maximum” of 2,300 guests. 

Guests are “strongly recommended” to be fully vaccinated before attending the Commencement ceremony, and those who are not fully vaccinated and who are traveling from outside New England will be required to quarantine for 10 days, the email said. 

The only three vaccines that will “currently” be accepted are the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Lawrence wrote. 

Masks are to be worn at all times regardless of vaccination status, the email said, whether in the stadium, around campus, or in downtown Hanover or Lebanon. 

Quarantines for guests traveling from inside the United States can be completed at their “domestic departure locations” before travel by “private vehicle” to Hanover, while guests traveling from abroad will have to quarantine after arriving in the United States. Guests will “need to fill out an attestation that they have followed these rules,” Lawrence wrote. 

Quarantines can be shortened to seven days with a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test six or more days after arrival in the Upper Valley, but the College’s testing facility at Leverone will not be open for guests, Lawrence wrote.

On-campus housing will also not be available for guests, who will “need to arrange for off-campus accommodation in the Upper Valley region,” the email said. 

Students will also need to take a COVID-19 PCR-based test 72 hours prior to attending the Commencement or investiture event. 

The Commencement ceremony will be livestreamed for those unable to attend, the email said. Lawrence wrote that the College is committed to a “robust streaming option” for those unable to attend Commencement in person. 

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin wrote in an email statement that the Town worked “very, very closely” with the College, and initially rejected the College’s original proposal for being too “ambitious.” According to Griffin, the College modified its proposal to accommodate the Town’s social distancing requirements, and the Town agreed on the requirement that all attendees are vaccinated or are properly quarantined and tested prior to the ceremony, and wear masks at all times in the stadium and in Hanover and Lebanon. 

“This large influx of people from all over the country and the world makes us somewhat nervous but we feel that we have arrived at a plan that we can live with,” Griffin wrote. “What will be paramount is that all attendees honor our requirements.”

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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