Commencement planning for this spring and next spring

April 23, 2021

Dear graduating students,

I write with two pieces of news about Commencement and a bit of explanation about each one.

  • For this spring, we are sticking with the overall plan announced in February: We will mark the moment of your graduation with a virtual OneMIT ceremony.
    • Departments, labs, and centers may supplement this with smaller in-person gatherings.
  • We are now preparing for an in-person, on-campus celebration in late May 2022 for the Classes of both 2020 and 2021, although the precise date is not yet fixed.

Why are we sticking with a virtual celebration this spring?

Rising vaccination rates and some easing in state restrictions recently inspired us to reexamine if it might be possible to complement the OneMIT virtual ceremony with large in-person Commencement celebrations.

Yet large gatherings continue to present public safety concerns. While the state has created an exception to its gathering size limits for commencements, the City of Cambridge has not. Whether on campus or off, any large ceremony held this spring would be diminished by restrictive guest policies, physical distance and face covering requirements, time limits, and other public health precautions, and by definition would not be the kind of meaningful, joyful, and spontaneous send-offs you and your loved ones have imagined.

We also learned from the senior class that many undergraduates prefer to wait until May 2022 to celebrate together, especially because most seniors remain off-campus and many would be unable to return this spring for safety, immigration, or financial reasons.

Local-level celebrations being planned

To supplement the online ceremony, departments, labs, and centers are planning a combination of virtual and smaller in-person events. Faculty will be able to reserve tents around campus for gatherings between May 20 and May 28. In addition, there will be a stage set up on Killian Court for photo opportunities for graduates and faculty.

More details to come

Please keep an eye out for additional details about the online Commencement festivities, such as recording the pronunciation of your name and submitting video greetings to family and friends. If you wish to order a cap and gown for pictures, you may find that information and more in the Class of 2021 FAQ.

Celebrating in-person and on-campus in May 2022

Covid-19 has taken away a capstone moment of recognition and close celebration with family and friends – for now. We will do our best to make that right by inviting 2021 and 2020 graduates back to campus next spring, in May 2022, around the time of the Class of 2022 ceremony. We plan to host on-campus events, and your family and friends will be invited to take part. We will also explore additional activities to celebrate your accomplishments. 

Beyond that basic timing decision, the planning is complex and detailed, including choosing a date. The Commencement Committee, Alumni Association, and student leaders will be working together to collect input from graduates and staff. Please stay tuned for more details in the coming months as organizers work to better understand your hopes for May 2022.

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I hope that you all continue to stay safe and healthy, and that you keep your sights set on the day in May 2022 that will see us welcome you back to campus for a fitting tribute that acknowledges your hard work and accomplishments.


Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor