Seniors allowed two guests at commencement, later move-out date

Commencement will feature multiple venues, splitting up attendees into five groups to comply with state gathering guidelines.

By Abigail Chang

Nick Garber
The announcement marks a shift from an earlier policy prohibiting guests at commencement and asking graduates to move out of their rooms on May 29, the day of commencement.

Seniors may invite up to two guests to commencement and move-out has been shifted from May 29 — the Saturday of commencement — to noon on May 30, according to an email from President Laurie Patton and Provost Jeff Cason. Commencement will be split up across five different locations on campus so that the event abides by Vermont’s gathering regulations.

The email also shared seniors may move final exams that fall on Friday, May 28 to an earlier date. In addition, members of the class of 2021.5 enrolled as in-person learners may remain on campus and attend the ceremony after receiving approval from the Dean of Students Office.

“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,” the email said. “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.”

The changes follow pushback from students including a petition that called for a later move-out date, the inclusion of the class of 2021.5, and clearer communication regarding commencement, among other demands. The petition has 526 signatories to date — including current students, family members and alumni.

Tia Pogue ’21.5, Kayla Lichtman ’21, Grace Metzler ’21.5 and Hannah Bensen ’21 created the petition, co-authored an op-ed and solicited more than six pages of student comments about the previous commencement plans. 

The changes also align with commencement plans announced by peer institutions. Nine out of the 11 NESCAC schools have shared that graduates may invite two guests to commencement. Tufts is the only NESCAC that currently plans to hold a fully virtual commencement, and Hamilton is not allowing guests.

The past few weeks have also brought a drop in new Covid-19 cases in the state and the news that vaccine appointments for out-of-state college students will open on April 29. Though they remain significantly higher than they were in April 2020, Vermont’s new reported cases have fallen steadily from the record-high levels seen at the beginning of the month. Addison County is faring better than many other parts of the state, reporting 66 new cases in the past 14 days compared to case counts of more than 100 in other counties.

Editor’s Note: Hannah Bensen is an editor at large and senior data editor.