Yale News

University administrators aim to unveil plans for commencement by the end of the month, deciding whether seniors can cap off their four years in their usual cap and gown ceremony.

Before the end of March, Yale plans to announce the bare-bones plan for commencement which is slated for May 24, University President Peter Salovey told the News. The University Secretary’s Office is in charge of commencement planning and is considering whether students can gather for the event and whether any guests can be present. Salovey added that the planning team is thinking about how to make an online commencement meaningful, should the option prove necessary.


“Our goal is to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of our graduating students (and allow them to celebrate each other) with activities that are also safe and responsible,” University Secretary Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 wrote in an email to the News. “We are working closely with our health experts and our deans, and expect that we will announce plans soon.”

The decision will depend on vaccine rollout, travel restrictions and public health guidelines at the time. The University must operate within Gov. Ned Lamont’s state limits on gathering sizes. Starting March 19, Lamont plans to increase the cap on outdoor gatherings from 50 to 200 people, and indoor event capacity is slated to increase from 25 people to 100 people.

“The more we have to rush the decision, the more we have to be conservative about it because there’s more uncertainty about what May will look like,” Salovey said.

Princeton University recently announced that its graduation will take place at Princeton Stadium, instead of the usual, smaller site in front of Nassau Hall to allow for social distancing. Graduating students are invited to attend, and Princeton is currently considering whether to allow guests, with a two-guest limit per student. By contrast, Harvard University announced that the exercise would be online for the second year in a row.

Professor of Public Health Howard Forman said that doing some sort of in-person gathering sounds feasible, though it would not resemble a normal graduation ceremony. Forman said that students would need to invite a limited number of guests, and those in attendance would need to socially distance.

“I think that it’s well within the realm of possibility that we could pull something off,” Forman said. “Whether we do it or not, I don’t know. I have no inside knowledge at all and I may be a fool for even suggesting it.”

The topic was briefly discussed at the Feb. 20 meeting of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

Rose Horowitch | rose.horowitch@yale.edu