Boston University President Robert Brown announced in an email Thursday the 2021 Commencement ceremony will be held in-person May 16. The event is subject to change and will occur in accordance with city and state guidelines.
A second in-person ceremony will be held for January 2021 and Class of 2020 graduates in October, according to BU Today.
The Class of 2021 ceremony is planned to be held at Nickerson Field with an additional open-air Baccalaureate service on the Alpert Mall. Attendees will be restricted to graduating seniors, advanced degree recipients as well as a small platform party which includes deans, advanced degree recipients and administrators.
Family and friends of graduates will not be permitted to attend due to COVID-19 guidelines, but there are plans for a virtual component so they may observe the ceremony, Brown wrote in his email.
“While I would have wished for you a different conclusion to your higher education experience,” Brown wrote, “I believe you will find in coming years that some of what you endured is instructive and fortifying.”
Brown wrote the administration is also “hopeful” the vaccine rollout, combined with other COVID-19 preventive measures, will “put the brakes on the spread of the virus.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email the University decided on an in-person ceremony because it is an important celebration for students.
“Commencement is a time to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates,” he wrote, “and our undergraduate students want to experience that with their classmates.”
He said evaluating the safety risks leading up to Commencement will be important in determining how the University will proceed, but he is optimistic the event will take place as planned.
“I’m hopeful that this important day in the lives of our graduates will take place as we plan for it,” Riley wrote, “and that it will appropriately mark the incredible and challenging experiences that they have overcome to get to it.”
College of Communication senior Pablo Cordon said BU’s decision to hold the event seemed hurried.
“To be honest, I feel like they’re rushing it a little bit with the news,” Cordon said. “They even said that it might not happen if the state doesn’t allow it.”
Cordon said the exclusion of family at the event confirmed his notion that the event was hastily planned, since family is always such a big part of graduation celebrations.
“The fact that they didn’t allow family,” Cordon said, “my first impression was they’re just trying to have something.”
COM senior Carlee Campuzano said the exclusion of family made her less excited for graduation.
“That was a little upsetting to read at first because I’m really close with my mom, and she helped me get through college and all of that,” Campuzano said. “So, I was a little bummed that she won’t be able to be there with me on the day.”
She added she understood the reasoning behind the decision and has accepted it as a necessary precaution from the University.
“I know BU is taking all of the safety precautions that they have to,” Campuzano said, “so I was feeling content with their choice.”
Michael Gomez, a senior in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said the email from Brown caught him off guard.
“I was a little surprised by it honestly because, I mean, having lived through COVID for a year now, I kind of forgot about graduation,” Gomez said. “But once I saw the news, I was actually pretty happy about it.”
Gomez noted he does want more information about the logistics surrounding the ceremony to feel more comfortable about attending the event.
“I want a couple more details on how it’s going to look like,” he said, “and just a little bit more reassurance that they’re going to be taking COVID seriously as they say they are.”
Campuzano said she trusts BU to take the necessary precautions to keep the event COVID-19 safe and understands why an in-person Commencement is still not set in stone.
“I know it’s not on BU to make that call, it’s on the state of the pandemic and the virus numbers,” she said. “I know that they’re making the most appropriate decision given the state of the pandemic.”