UMass community reacts to 2021 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony announcement

Commencement will feature four in-person ceremonies with two guests per graduate


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published prior to Gov. Baker’s new guidelines, and the announcement from the University released on April 28, in which Chancellor Subbaswamy details that two guests are now allowed to attend the Commencement ceremony per graduate. All guests will have to wear masks and abide by socially distancing protocols.

Karen Beaulieu frowned in disappointment as she typed out an email to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. A mother of a senior about to graduate from UMass Amherst, Beaulieu wanted to attend her son’s Commencement ceremony to be with him on his special day.

“I want to see my son graduate,” she explained. “So what do I do? I have to see him all dressed up in Amherst, and then I got to run a half-hour home to watch it on TV to stream it. It’s just stupid.”

In an email sent to students on March 14, Subbaswamy announced there will be an in-person Undergraduate Commencement for the class of 2021 on May 14. Commencement will take the form of four smaller and shorter ceremonies at McGuirk Alumni Stadium and no guests will be allowed. Live streams are available for guests to watch virtually.

Beaulieu wrote an email to Subbaswamy requesting that the university gives graduates two guest tickets so their parents can attend. She has not yet received a reply, however, she is calling on other parents who are upset about the situation to email him as well.

“If you’re going to do four individual [graduations], let’s say a thousand people at each, so roughly 4,000 students, and McGuirk seats 17,000, you say, ‘okay, you can have two tickets and these are your seats.’ Why can’t they have control and separate people?” Beaulieu asked.

Senior Landscape Architecture Major Zach Newman is excited about having an in-person Commencement.

“I’m perfectly happy with it,” he said. “I was under the speculation that we wouldn’t have an in-person graduation at all. I understand that it sucks and some people aren’t happy [with the decision to not allow guests], but the whole pandemic sucks and I’m just happy that we get at least something.”

Other students are not thrilled with the fact that graduates can’t have their parents attend.

“Why would I get the cap and gown and go through all the pomp and circumstance if I can’t walk on the stage or have my parents there?” asked Senior Sport Management Major David Deyeso.

He explained his parents are not very tech-savvy, so they may have a difficult time watching his graduation virtually.

“My parents don’t really know how to use electronics. There’s no chance they’re going to sit down and watch me [graduate] virtually,” he said.

 Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs John McCarthy announced that individual departments and colleges are not allowed to offer any sort of in-person events for commencement.

Newman said his landscape architecture department has a total of 13 graduating seniors. He and his classmates want to have individual graduation within their department because their class is so small.

“We told our department chair ‘either you throw us a graduation or we’re just going to throw our own graduation. You regulate it or we regulate it- pick one,’” said Newman.

Deyeso is still deciding whether or not to attend Commencement. He wishes his friends and family could celebrate with him as he walks across the stage to get his diploma.

“Having parents at graduation… that’s kind of the whole point of graduation,” said Deyeso. “Everybody that loves you gets to see you with this accomplishment, and not having them there makes it all not really worth it.”

The UMass Class of 2021 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies will be spread out throughout the day on May 14, and the schedule can be viewed here.

Like UMass, Smith College will allow graduates to celebrate in-person, but guests must live stream the ceremony. Amherst College is also planning on having an in-person graduation, but plans are not yet concrete. Both Hampshire College and Mount Holyoke College will be hosting entirely virtual graduation ceremonies.

Other universities across the U.S. are hosting in-person graduation ceremonies with guests allowed. The University of Texas announced that limited tickets will be available for graduates’ guests based on current capacity and social distancing guidelines. The University of Connecticut will be hosting in-person graduation ceremonies over five separate days.


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