The University announced last week that two guests will be permitted per graduate for the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 9, in an email from the Commencement Executive Committee on April 20. All guests attending the ceremony, held at Andy Kerr Stadium, must be pre-registered will be asked to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination, a recent negative test result or proof of recent recovery from the virus.
“We believe that, no matter what decision we were to make — guests, or no guests — a very large number of family members will come to the campus over the weekend, not only to help their students move out of their residences but also to be with their graduates. By inviting them to the ceremony, we hope that we can more directly partner with them to abide by the safety guidelines we have set forth for the weekend,” the committee wrote in the email, acknowledging that the decision to allow guests may not be preferable by the entire community. The email also added that the ceremony falls within New York State guidelines and will include many procedures to protect the safety of both attendees and the Village more broadly.
Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar elaborated on the decision to welcome guests to the ceremony.
“We always hoped that we could have an in-person commencement ceremony and that is why we waited as long as we did to announce a guest policy as opposed to other institutions,” Rodriguez-Farrar said. “Thankfully, New York State guidelines changed so that we could have the event in Andy Kerr Stadium, and all our plans conform to New York State guidelines.”
Senior Karina Cheah shared her thoughts on the requirements and how it would affect guest attendance.
“Initially, because we didn’t know how the vaccine rollout was going to look, we had a lot of concerns about accessibility,” Cheah said. “Now that the [vaccine] rollout has accelerated, it feels less problematic.”
A separate email from President Brian Casey sent to seniors and registered guests includes several important guidelines for the weekend centered around preventing the spread of COVID-19. The email states that all campus buildings will be off-limits to guests. Further, guests are asked to abide by the village’s masking and physical distancing requirements.
Cheah said she feels it’s hard to speculate whether these guidelines will be effective when guests arrive in Hamilton.
“It’s just very difficult to corral that many parents or relatives, or whoever is coming for guests,” Cheah said. “I hope there will be enough self-preservation instinct that people will want to follow those guidelines.”
A town hall for the Class of 2021 will be held on Thursday, April 29 at 6 p.m. EST during which students will be able to ask questions about the graduation weekend schedule and torchlight ceremony.
Prior to the town hall, Senior Class President Natalia Valente said she hoped the event will provide clarity for the class of 2021 regarding the regulations and expectations for commencement weekend.
“I’m hoping for lots of participation as we get closer to the ceremony,” Valente said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement. Hopefully, this can be a good chance for everyone to be on the same page and know what to expect from the weekend.”