Dear Middlebury Community,
We are writing with some important updates about the 2021 Commencement ceremony, including changes to the format, guest policy, senior move-out date, and final examinations. We shared these updates with the graduating seniors earlier today.
During the past few weeks, after we last wrote about Commencement, we heard from many students and parents who shared their disappointment that our plans would not allow for guests or proper goodbyes and celebrations for graduating seniors. We have continued to monitor Vermont’s evolving COVID-19 guidelines—and have conferred with state health officials about how they affect colleges—while watching closely conditions on campus, Addison County, and the nation. Our focus has been and remains providing the best possible in-person experience for our senior class while protecting the health and safety of our entire community.
After careful consideration, we have decided to make a number of changes to the Commencement ceremony, including allowing two guests per graduate, so that students and families can be together to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of the Class of 2021. While the conditions of the pandemic will not allow us to come together in all the ways we are accustomed to gathering for senior week and Commencement—or to change the date of the Saturday, May 29, ceremony—we carefully considered what we could change, while ensuring a safe celebration that meets state of Vermont guidelines.
Important Changes to the Commencement Ceremony
We still are working out details of the ceremony and will provide more information once it becomes available. What we can share now are the following schedule and policy changes:
- Graduating seniors living on campus may remain on campus until 12 p.m. Sunday, May 30—the day after the Commencement ceremony.
- All seniors will be asked to register up to two invited guests to attend the ceremony. More information about the registration process and ticketing will be shared when it becomes available.
- Most seniors who currently have final exams scheduled for Friday, May 28, will be able to schedule their final assessments earlier in the week. Those students should discuss any potential changes with their professors.
- The senior class and their guests will assemble simultaneously in five different venues to comply with Vermont crowd size limits and distancing requirements. These multiple venues will allow guests to be physically present in the audience to watch their graduates receive their degrees.
- The Commencement ceremony, including the keynote address, the senior speaker address, the president’s address, and honorary degree conferrals, will be viewed simultaneously via a simulcast at each venue.
- The names of graduating seniors will be read, and diploma cases and canes will be conferred at the various venues where graduates and their guests are assembled.
- We regret that we are not able to have the usual senior picnic or allow for other gatherings after the ceremony. All guests, including remote seniors returning to Middlebury for the ceremony, will be required to leave campus at the conclusion of Commencement.
- Please note that all guests must abide by Vermont COVID-19 travel guidelines, which changed on April 9. Vermont universal guidance applies at the event. All participants must wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, and practice hand hygiene along with all other state and College-mandated health and safety measures.
The ceremony will be simulcast online so that anyone who wants to participate may do so virtually. A full schedule will be posted on the Commencement website once it becomes available. We also are preparing a list of frequently asked questions and answers that we hope will be helpful.
A Note on Vaccination Status
Some of you have asked whether we could simply allow anyone who is vaccinated to attend Commencement. While we strongly encourage all who are able to become fully vaccinated before the event, it is important to note that the majority of seniors and many guests will not have the opportunity to do so. In addition, we do not have the ability to verify visitor vaccination status in a timely manner prior to the event and therefore must assume that all guests are unvaccinated, which limits crowd sizes even outdoors. We ask that you respect this decision and recognize the tremendous work that our students, faculty, and staff have done during this entire academic year to keep our community safe. These policies were made in the same spirit of safety that has helped Middlebury remain a vibrant learning community, even in the midst of a pandemic. We can’t wait to celebrate with you.
February ’21.5 graduates presently enrolled as in-person learners will have the option to remain on campus to attend the ceremony with approval from the Dean of Students Office. Details on requesting approval will follow in an upcoming communication. We regret that we will not be able to allow those individuals to invite guests to this ceremony, and that Febs enrolled as remote learners or on leaves of absence are not eligible to attend. We will, however, have our typical Feb Celebration and ceremony for all February ’21.5 graduates next spring.
Remote Seniors Participation
Our approach to participation for seniors who are studying remotely has not changed, regardless of their vaccination status. Seniors studying remotely may join the in-person ceremony only, and only if they are able to complete all Vermont travel requirements and any College requirements in place at that time. For health and safety reasons, remote seniors will not be permitted to attend any other events or be on campus for any reason other than Commencement.
Additional requirements and parameters are as follows:
- All off-campus seniors who are studying remotely must arrive at the scheduled time and place and depart immediately when the graduation ceremony ends.
- We will provide financial assistance for travel and hotel expenses for any currently remote seniors who wish to participate and who qualify. Returning seniors will not be permitted to complete quarantine on campus. To apply for assistance, please contact Student Financial Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Seniors who can be fully vaccinated should do so at least two weeks before returning to campus.
- Any senior returning to campus must abide by the College’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Policy, the Middlebury Handbook, and all other applicable rules and directives. This includes not participating in unauthorized gatherings or parties off campus.
We are grateful that we can celebrate this moment after a challenging year that also had many rewards. Whether watching virtually or participating in-person, we invite you to engage on our social media channels and share your special moments with us. We are so excited to come together creatively to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021.