President Iuliano updates seniors and their parents about plans to hold an in-person Commencement on the morning of Monday, May 17, on campus at Musselman Stadium.
I write today to share information about this year’s Commencement ceremony and how we plan to mark this special accomplishment in your academic career.
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf raised the maximum occupancy limit to 50 percent for outdoor events within the Commonwealth beginning April 4. In addition, following an email I shared with you on March 11, our Senior Class Officers and Senior Class Advisory Group met with our Commencement Committee to offer their thoughts and preferences for this year’s ceremony as representatives of the senior class, bearing in mind the significant challenges in planning a ceremony such as this amid an ongoing pandemic. These two inputs—new guidance from the state and insights from our seniors—were influential in our decision-making process, together with our ongoing focus on community health and wellbeing.
Above all, our senior class leaders expressed a deep and unified desire to be together, to celebrate as a class with an in-person Commencement ceremony on our historic campus. It is an aspiration that speaks profoundly to this community—the desire to be together, to celebrate one another, and to engage in a shared ceremony in honor of a shared accomplishment. The heartfelt expressions we heard from you about what it would mean to be together were powerful indeed.
Today, I am pleased to announce that Gettysburg College plans to host an in-person Commencement ceremony for all members of the Class of 2021 on the morning of Monday, May 17, on campus at Musselman Stadium. All seniors, whether in the residential or remote cohort this spring, are invited to attend our in-person Commencement. The ceremony will also be made available via livestream to any classmates who would prefer to participate virtually, as well as to friends, family, alumni, and other members of the College community who wish to tune in.
In accordance with capacity limits and conditions at this time, each senior may invite two guests to attend. All guests will need to be registered in advance and will have to check in and sit together. More information about guest registration will be forthcoming.
It is important to underscore, even with eased state restrictions, that this year’s Commencement planning has been intimately impacted by the pandemic. As our Commencement Committee and senior class leaders can attest, we as a College are fully extending ourselves to make this in-person ceremony possible—and to do so safely, in partnership with our medical experts. We are doing this because we understand just how much this ceremony means to you, as well as to your families and loved ones. It matters enormously to all of us, and even more so in this difficult year. Of course, as is true for all plans in these unprecedented times, our in-person Commencement will depend on COVID cases on our campus remaining low and any new state guidance in the weeks leading up to the ceremony.
While many details are still being determined, I’d like to speak to a few primary modifications that we are making to allow for an in-person Commencement this spring:
- Date: We moved the date of Commencement from Sunday, May 23, to Monday, May 17, to enable the seniors already in residence to transition directly from final exams to Commencement.
- Location: Musselman Stadium was selected as the location for this year’s event. With a PA maximum occupancy limit of 50 percent for outdoor events, the Stadium supports a higher capacity than our customary location outside of Pennsylvania Hall. Of course, since our outdoor venue has enabled us to host an in-person Commencement, all seniors and guests should expect that the ceremony will occur outdoors rain or shine. We ask that you please plan accordingly. In addition, we recognize how important the procession back through Penn Hall is for our seniors, and our Commencement Committee and senior class leadership will continue to think creatively about this special tradition.
- Participants: We want to make certain that every Gettysburg College senior has the opportunity to participate in an in-person Commencement alongside their friends and classmates. Because it will not be feasible to test guests or the seniors in the remote cohort, it will be necessary to limit engagement on campus exclusively to the Commencement ceremony itself, meaning that guests and remote seniors will be expected to depart from the College shortly after the ceremony and, when on campus, to stay within the limits of the ceremony venue. Residential students will also be expected to leave campus following the Commencement ceremony on Monday.
- Guests: The College continues to monitor the latest conditions and state rules, and we will adjust accordingly. This could result in our being able to accommodate more guests, or to move in the opposite direction—including an inability to host any guests—if conditions within the Commonwealth or on campus deteriorate. Obviously, we do not want the latter, but we feel it is essential to be open with you about the continued uncertainties presented by the pandemic and the limits on our ability to provide absolute assurances. Please note that all Commencement guests, participants, and staff will be expected to adhere to masking, physical distancing inside and out of the Stadium, and other College health and safety protocols while on campus.
- Degree Conferral: As you’d imagine, our Commencement program will need to be different than in previous years. Like so many other colleges this spring, given our earlier Commencement date, we will not provide diplomas during the event as final grades will not yet have been processed. Each individual senior name will be read at our Commencement ceremony and then graduating seniors will receive their diplomas by mail once grades are finalized. On May 23, we will recognize you as official graduates of Gettysburg College by conferring your degrees virtually at that time. It will be a wonderful opportunity for you to gather with family and loved ones at home in celebration of all you’ve achieved.
I encourage you to visit our Commencement website for the Class of 2021 in the weeks ahead as more information becomes available and we finalize our plans.
Again, I am so delighted that we will join together for this one-of-a-kind, in-person Commencement ceremony on May 17. I know our entire Gettysburg College community is looking forward to honoring you with the pomp and circumstance that you and your classmates so rightly deserve.