In-Person Commencement for BU Class of 2021 Planned for May 16, unless City Requires Virtual Ceremony
Class of 2020 will gather October 2 for virus-delayed ceremony: both will be for graduates only
Massachusetts and Boston COVID-19 rules permitting, BU will hold an in-person Commencement May 16 on Nickerson Field to celebrate the Class of 2021. State and city restrictions on gatherings will preclude graduates’ families, friends, and other guests from attending.
The University also announced that the Class of 2020’s Commencement, postponed last year in the pandemic’s early months, will be held on Nickerson Field October 2 at 6 pm, during Alumni Weekend, also without guests, pending state and city permissions. Both ceremonies were announced Thursday in emails sent to the two classes and the BU community from President Robert A. Brown. More information will be made available in the coming days on the Commencement website.
The University is asking members of the Class of 2021 to complete a brief survey about whether they plan to attend the May Commencement.
“Attendees will be limited to May 2021 or September 2021 graduating seniors and advanced degree recipients and a small platform party, including deans, administrators, and honorary degree recipients,” Brown wrote about the May ceremony. “Regrettably, we cannot offer the opportunity to invite family and friends. We are currently working on a plan to provide enhanced virtual access to the celebration so this important milestone in your life may be shared and enjoyed.”
The same virtual access will be provided for the 2020 graduates’ Commencement in October, the president wrote.
There is still a possibility that May’s Commencement will have to be conducted virtually, if the pandemic requires the city of Boston to maintain limits on outdoor gatherings.
“I need to offer the cautionary note that our planning is contingent on both the progress made in fighting COVID-19 and decisions made by city or state officials about public gatherings,” Brown wrote to the Class of 2021. “There have been enough ups and downs over the course of the past year to make all of us a bit guarded about what the future holds. We are moving forward in a spirit of optimism, but we are prepared to adjust our Commencement plans as needed. Our aim is to provide a Commencement that properly celebrates what you have accomplished.”
The in-person Commencements would be conducted under the University’s Back2BU COVID-19 protocols. Additionally, graduates studying remotely from off-campus locations and outside Massachusetts will have to comply with the protocols, as well as city and state travel guidelines for entering the commonwealth. A green badge will be required for participation in the May 16 in-person event on Nickerson Field.
As a component of the May all-University 2021 Commencement, plans are underway for an open-air Baccalaureate service on the Alpert Mall, near Marsh Chapel, the president wrote. That also will be “limited to graduating seniors and advanced degree recipients and a small group of deans and administrators,” following Back2BU protocols.
Individual BU schools and colleges will hold their convocations virtually, Brown said, and diplomas will be mailed to graduates rather than distributed on campus.
The president’s message to this year’s seniors noted that vaccinations against COVID-19 give him optimism as spring unfolds: “I am proud of how well our students have adjusted and adapted, sometimes on short notice, to remote and hybrid learning, to our testing and distancing protocols, and to the restrictions on cocurricular activities or the options for internships or study abroad. We recognize that the senior year for our undergraduate students has been very different from what they likely envisioned when they entered Boston University.”
The University originally hoped to hold the Class of 2020 Commencement in May as well. But when that plan was announced, “we were just learning of the scale and ferocity of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the president wrote Thursday to last year’s grads. “None of the early projections about the likely course of the disease proved reliable, and it not only lingered but, sometimes, seemed like a runaway train.”
The rescheduled October ceremony will include the awarding of honorary degrees to recipients announced at last May’s virtual Senior Breakfast, Brown wrote, among them the Commencement speaker, Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.