University-wide Commencement Ceremony to Be Held Virtually

Individual schools are preparing to announce plans for their own ceremonies

Ballou Hall on the Tufts campus, with bright flowers in the foreground. Tufts’ 2021 university-wide commencement will be held virtually.

Tufts has announced plans for its university-wide commencement ceremony to be held virtually on May 23, citing COVID-19 concerns.

Individual schools at Tufts are in the process of finalizing the plans for their own ceremonies and will be communicating those plans to their communities shortly.

In his message to the Tufts community on March 8, President Anthony P. Monaco said uncertain public health conditions, shifting state and local guidelines about public gatherings, and changing travel restrictions informed the decision about the format of the university-wide ceremony. This ceremony typically draws nearly 2,000 graduates and upwards of 8,000 guests to the Medford/Somerville campus’s Academic Quad on the Sunday morning of Commencement weekend.

Such a large, in-person event was “not realistic” given the persistent pandemic, he said, adding that the virtual format “is in keeping with our commitment to protecting the health and safety of our community.”

Last year, with in-person events made impossible by the pandemic, Tufts recognized graduates with its first virtual university-wide degree conferral ceremony and will again this year offer a spirited, celebratory online experience for the university-wide ceremony. (At a time when it is safe to do so, the university has committed to recognizing the undergraduate Class of 2020 with an in-person commencement ceremony.)

This year’s university-wide ceremony will include honorary degrees and a commencement speaker. The speaker, to be announced soon, will “inspire pride in all members of our community,” said Monaco.

The university-wide ceremony, which will take place as scheduled on May 23, will be viewable on the university’s commencement website beginning that Sunday morning.

A commencement planning committee, which includes student representatives, recommended the virtual format after evaluating all options, in close coordination with university medical and public health experts. 

“We know it is extremely unlikely that public health guidelines will permit families to attend,” said Monaco. “However, some schools hope that circumstances will permit modified ceremonies that would allow in-person attendance by our graduates themselves.”

The Tufts announcement came on the heels of continuing caution from Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, who warned against complacency in the fight to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many more people need to be vaccinated before large public gatherings can resume, Fauci said, adding that “plateauing is not the time to declare victory because we're not victorious yet.”

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