UR announced a hybrid commencement is planned for this year. The commencement events will be held in person on May 14-16 and 21-23 for eligible graduates, faculty, and staff. Family and friends will not be allowed to attend, but all of the events will be live-streamed online for family and friends to view. This news came in an email sent by President Sarah C. Mangelsdorf to the University community on March 19.
“We realize that limiting the ceremony to students, faculty, and staff is a significant disappointment for our students and their families,” Mangelsdorf said in the email. “I too am saddened to deliver such disheartening news, particularly after all this community has done to remain safe during the pandemic. But it is my hope that sharing these details now will allow family and friends to celebrate our graduates’ accomplishment responsibly while keeping our community safe.”
Although the current campus policy prohibits visitors, the University will update its commencement approach if New York state guidance changes.
In the email, Mangelsdorf addressed the importance of having loved ones present at such a momentous occasion but wrote how the welfare of University community members was the “foremost concern.”
Students were generally understanding of — albeit a bit upset by — the decision.
“I think from a policy level, and considering the current state of the pandemic we’re in, a hybrid commencement makes sense,” senior and Campus Times senior staff Sakhile Ntshangase said. “It’s not the ideal graduation anyone could have hoped for, but the fact that we can have a ceremony — even if limited to our community — is a safe and sensible option.”
Senior Toni Hahn echoed this sentiment. “Although it was very disappointing to find out our friends and families wouldn’t be able to attend commencement, I am grateful that the hybrid approach is prioritizing in-person participation for those of us on campus,” Hahn said. “I appreciate that the University is continuing to look out for all its students’ well-being, and with the increasing distribution of vaccines, I’m hopeful that this will be the last commencement ceremony they’re required to modify.”
Although parts of Monroe County like Rochester were in the orange zone for COVID-19 since late Nov. 2020, in late Jan. 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all New York state micro-cluster focus zones had been lifted. This meant that the University was no longer in any New York state zone and was allowed more flexibility in some of their COVID-19 policies.
Further details about the 2021 commencement will be posted on UR’s commencement website.