March 19, 2021

Dear Seniors and Families, 

I am writing today about our current plans for Commencement 2021, which will take place on Sunday, May 30. We know how important a milestone event it is, and we have worked hard to develop plans for a safe, in-person event that will celebrate your years of hard work, growth, and friendship. Bearing in mind that state regulations and the course of the virus could force us to pull back, I want you to know right away that we intend to hold an outdoor, in-person Commencement that allows each senior to have two guests in attendance. 

Here is what we can tell you today, with more detail forthcoming over the next several weeks: 

  • We intend to host an in-person Commencement ceremony, in which we invite all seniors to participate—including those who have spent the semester or year off campus.

  • Each graduating senior will be able to invite two guests to the in-person Commencement ceremony, assuming that the modifications the Commonwealth announced this afternoon remain in place through the end of the semester. 

  • An intensive testing protocol will be required of all seniors and guests traveling to Amherst College; details to follow.

  • In order to make our plan possible and safe, physical access to campus for seniors who have been studying remotely will be limited to Sunday, May 30, at the location and for the duration of the ceremony only. Information about travel guidelines, off-campus housing, testing protocols, and other pertinent details will be communicated as soon as possible.

  • Move-out will occur immediately following Commencement. A separate message from Dean of Students Liz Agosto will inform you of the details.

  • The specific location on campus where the ceremony will take place has not yet been confirmed.

  • Barring significant changes in guidance from the experts, our existing health protocols will be in place throughout the day: face coverings, physical distancing, washing hands, etc.

Note that much of our plan is contingent on a variety of factors outside of our control, and we do not have enough information in some cases to know how state guidance will evolve. You can all imagine the variables that could come into play—Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ and the town of Amherst’s guidelines for the size of group gatherings, Massachusetts travel restrictions, our community’s level of infection at the time, the state of the pandemic itself, among others. We do know that you have many questions that this note does not answer. Please be patient as we work to confirm the details we know you need to make plans. We will communicate regularly with you and establish an online FAQ just as soon as we have them. 

We are determined to provide a meaningful and enjoyable Commencement experience for you, our Bicentennial class in this Bicentennial year. Careful planning and caution have allowed us to be fairly successful in our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We will have to ask for the same continued cooperation, diligence, and adherence to the protocols that you have demonstrated for the past year to be able to accomplish our goals for Commencement.

I want to let you know that we are also working on plans for an in-person celebration of the Class of 2020, whose Commencement last spring was changed dramatically because of the pandemic. We will communicate information about a celebration for ’20 graduates as soon as it is confirmed.

I am excited to be able to share these basic plans. Please feel free to send the questions to which you will most need answers, knowing that in many cases it will take time before we have the answers. You can send questions by responding to this email.