Commencement Planning 2021

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Dear Colgate Community,

I write with important updates on Commencement 2021 planning efforts. 
Commencement is a set of rituals deeply important for every member of this academic community. It marks the end of the academic year, it is a gathering of all parts of the institution, and it is a celebration of our core mission. But it is most important for the graduates themselves.
Planning for a commencement is complex in a typical year. The ever-evolving public health picture associated with the pandemic, however, makes these efforts much more challenging this spring. I write to update the community on those planning efforts and to provide the information that is available at this point.
The Commencement Executive Committee (the committee that organizes each year’s ceremonies), in partnership with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), is intent on preserving the heart of our commencement tradition while maintaining our commitment to community health both on campus and in the Village of Hamilton. They have reviewed the complex situation we face in planning this year’s ceremony. Members of the Commencement Executive Committee have now met with students in the graduating class, members of the village community, as well as parents and other people connected to and deeply interested in commencement planning.
Based on these conversations and in accordance with current state health guidelines, a few important decisions have been made based on the guidance of the Commencement Committee and the EOC.
First, and most importantly, Colgate will move the Commencement Ceremony from Sunday, May 16, to Sunday, May 9. In the past, many seniors have traveled in the week after examinations and before commencement. A change in date will reduce the potential for individuals to leave campus and return prior to the ceremony. 
Second, the ceremony will take place in Andy Kerr Stadium. This is the one facility that meets current New York State guidelines for outdoor gatherings.
At this point, given state guidelines and other health considerations, it remains unclear if we will be able to welcome guests, including parents, for commencement. If we were to make a decision today, New York State gathering restrictions and travel guidelines, with their associated requirements, would simply not permit all parents to participate. 
I have therefore asked the EOC to track national and state public health developments pertaining to large gatherings, and to offer recommendations to me about guests within the next two weeks. We anticipate announcing a final decision on or around March 15. Decisions related to the Academic Awards Ceremony, the Torchlight Procession and Baccalaureate will be shared at a later date. 
We recognize this makes planning difficult. As we consider all of our options, please do not make non-refundable travel or housing plans until we know what will be possible for the ceremony.

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we work through the many facets of commencement planning. Please know that the health of our campus community, the village, and your families is at the heart of every decision we make. Also know that some decisions are made for us by New York State. 
Please also know that this pandemic and its many disruptions, while profound, in no way dampen our pride in your accomplishments or our intention to celebrate the Class of 2021 this May.
Brian W. Casey