Following the announcement of an in-person commencement, Boston University will hold two separate ceremonies — still without guests — for graduate and undergraduate students this year in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines, President Robert Brown wrote in an email to graduates Friday.
After polling interest in graduating seniors, Brown wrote the number of students who were interested in attending in-person commencement at Nickerson Field exceeded its capacity.
The University plans to hold graduate proceedings at 9:30 a.m. May 16 and undergraduate ceremonies at 2 p.m. the same day.
Seating will follow Back2BU policies for social distancing, according to the Commencement 2021 website, while friends and family members will have virtual access to the event. Diplomas for all graduates will be sent in the mail.
“We recognize that the events we are planning cannot be as fulfilling as they would be if we could host family and friends,” Brown wrote. “Nonetheless, I am pleased that we are returning, step by step, to operations and events that are closer to normal.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said splitting the event allows graduates and their families the opportunity to celebrate after a difficult 13 months in the pandemic.
“It’s a tradition that is one of the most meaningful times of their life where they get to celebrate their accomplishments over the course of the four years,” Riley said. “This particular past year has presented incredible challenges for students to weather, and so it’s even doubly so at this graduation.”
College of Communication senior Ryann Gaffney said she does not plan to attend the graduation ceremony.
“I felt like since my parents couldn’t come, there wasn’t really a purpose for me to go,” she said, “especially since the diploma’s being mailed.”
College of Arts and Sciences senior Makenzie Irvine will also not be attending the ceremony and instead plans to spend time with her loved ones.
“It’s going to be a lot of family time for me, just because I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with family over the last semester since we’ve been here,” Irvine said. “We’re going to celebrate in our own way, because they can’t come to the actual celebration.”
Adiba Gaffar, a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she thinks the decision is a “good choice” and will be at the in-person ceremony.
Gaffar added she did not mind the schedule change, because she thinks the two groups of students do not usually overlap on campus.
“Undergrads and grads are typically sort of in their own realm anyways,” she said.
Riley said while the University “would have been pleased to have had a traditional ceremony,” the graduation ceremonies must remain safe and socially distanced in consideration of the rate of COVID-19 infections.
He added the celebration will signify completing a remote year at BU, both for faculty and students.
“We certainly congratulate all of our students and certainly the faculty whose work has allowed our students to continue … so that they did not lose a year,” Riley said, “and that now they’re going to see the culmination of their hard work at commencement May 16.”
Vanessa Bartlett contributed to the reporting of this article.