Senior Week and Commencement to include in-person and virtual components

Senior Week, which will take place in early June, will incorporate in-person activities ranging from a roller rink and canoeing to social mixers.

by Lauren Adler | 5/28/21 2:00am

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

After a year marked by changing plans and missed connections, members of the Class of 2021 will be able to participate in a mix of in-person and virtual Senior Week and Commencement activities.

Senior Week, which will take place between June 7 and June 13, is traditionally a time for members of the graduating class to have fun and connect with their peers before Commencement, senior class vice president Da’Jahnae Provitt ’21 said. This year, in addition to in-person outdoor activities, Senior Week will include virtual events in order to make the festivities accessible to as many graduating students as possible.

Senior class president Jared Cape ’21 said the in-person events will be open only to the Class of 2021, while virtual events will be available to a wider audience. 

“We want Senior Week to be safe, fun and inclusive,” Cape said. “Part of that is having both in-person and virtual events that include members of our class, as well as those that have supported us and got us here, like our parents, our other family members, friends from home [and] the greater Dartmouth community.”

According to Cape, Provitt and director of student involvement David Pack, this year’s in-person programs will include a roller rink activity, traditional “last chances” events like canoeing on the Connecticut River and visits to the Hood Museum, mixers for students to meet peers moving to the same cities after graduation and a “Taste of Hanover” event featuring food from local restaurants. Virtual events will include a documentary screening and Zoom panel discussion with members of the Class of 1971 on the admission of women to the College, a “designing your life” workshop with the Human-Centered Design program and a slideshow highlighting the accomplishments of members of the Class of 2021 during their time at Dartmouth. 

“We’ve definitely had to rethink and reconceptualize what these events are, and it’s been very cool because I think in a way they can become more accessible for students [for whom] otherwise they might have been challenging,” Provitt said. “At the same time, this is not what we anticipated. But we’re really doing our best to make sure that this is a week that will be memorable and fun and safe.”

Pack said that planning Senior Week has been “challenging” in the face of changing state and federal distancing and gathering guidelines, and that plans for some activities — like the traditional beer garden event —  are still “in the works.”

“These are things that we’re working on, but as everyone has gotten used to this year, things can change at the last minute,” Pack said. “So we hope that everything we’re talking about right now comes to pass, but if it doesn't, we hope that people can be gracious and enjoy what we are able to offer.”

However, Pack added that he hopes with events being outdoors and participants “comply[ing]” with COVID-19 guidelines, this year’s Senior Week will be a success.

“I think we all wanted to try and do as much as we could for the ’21s this year for Senior Week, just knowing that it’s been a less than ideal senior year in a lot of ways,” he said. “I think that there’s still things that we wish we’d be able to do during Senior Week, but we’re going to do our best and hope that everyone can roll with the challenges and restrictions on the events and still manage to have a good time.”

According to executive director of conferences and events EJ Kiefer, “it takes a village to pull off Commencement” even in an ordinary year, and planning an in-person ceremony during the pandemic has added logistical challenges atop usual planning difficulties. Commencement ceremonies for the College and for Dartmouth’s graduate schools have been moved to Memorial Field this year, helping to reduce costs and ensure adequate time for cleaning between events, Kiefer said. 

Kiefer added that holding the ceremonies in the gated stadium will help to contain graduates’ guests in one place, which — combined with the limited number of guests — will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during commencement weekend.

“It’s going to be the best thing for the town and for the guests and the students,” Kiefer said. “[COVID-19 is] still around in the Upper Valley and we have a global audience, so everyone should be as cautious as possible — [they should] still enjoy themselves, but celebrate appropriately.”

Marina Liot ’21 said she is excited to give her visiting family members an outdoor campus tour that reflects her Dartmouth experience, starting at the lawn of Robinson Hall where she began her First-Year Trip. She is also looking forward to reuniting with her freshman floor and her study abroad group during Senior Week.

“I am past the two weeks mark for my second [COVID-19] vaccine, and I feel like a lot of my friends on campus have gotten their vaccines, so that makes me feel pretty good about meeting up in-person,” she said.

Liot also had the opportunity to see Annette Gordon-Reed, this year’s commencement speaker, give a keynote address at one of Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary events while she was studying abroad in London during her junior year, and said she is “really looking forward” to Gordon-Reed’s Commencement address.

This Senior Week will also see four members of the Class of 2021 receive their military commissions. The College had originally barred the four students commissioning as officers in the United States Army and Marine Corps — Officer Candidate Robert Hobart III ’21, Cadet Jacob Rozak ’21, Cadet William Gibeley ’21 and Cadet Jaeyoung Oh ’21 — from having in-person guests at their commissioning ceremony. After lobbying various administrators to reverse the policy, as well as support from CNN anchor Jake Tapper ’91, associate dean of student affairs Katherine Burke wrote in an email to the cadets on Tuesday that they would be allowed to bring two guests to their commissioning ceremony. 

“I appreciate the people who spoke out on our behalf, and I really look forward to celebrating that day with my family,” Hobart said.

According to Kiefer, while Gordon-Reed’s address will be delivered in-person, many of the weekend’s concurrent events will be held completely virtually, or will be in-person for graduates only. For example, the Native American Program’s blanketing ceremony on Friday evening and the Phi Beta Kappa ceremony on Saturday afternoon will be livestreamed for guests of graduates, and the OPAL ceremony on Saturday morning will be held completely online in order to accommodate guests.

Provitt said that while she and Cape understand that this year’s activities will be different from the norm, they still hope to “bring together something that everyone enjoys” for the members of the Class of 2021’s last week on campus.

“This is not what we expected and this is not what we anticipated, and I just want to acknowledge that,” she said. “But we care, and we know that everyone else does too. We’re really trying to do our best to make lemonade out of lemons.”

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