In-person graduation ceremonies announced

Queens campus to host “multiple in-person ceremonies” in mid-July

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new guidance given by the University.

On May 4, University President, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., announced the details of the in-person Commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021 in an email to the University community. The ceremonies will take place from Monday, July 12 through Thursday, July 15, “rain or shine.”

Prospective graduates will receive further information this week in regard to the exact date and time they will be walking across the stage this summer. All attendees, including graduates and their respective guests, must complete a contact tracing form and either provide documentation of a full series of COVID-19 vaccination at least 14 days prior to the ceremony or present results of a negative PCR test administered within 72 hours of the event. 

“In accordance with New York State Department of Health (DOH) guidelines, each ceremony will have limited student and guest capacity; graduates are welcome to bring two (2) guests,” according to an email from the University. 

In accordance with local health guidelines, face masks must be worn at all times and social distancing will be enforced; these protocols will not change for any of the ceremonies. Attendees must also complete a St. John’s Campus Health Pass in order to attend Commencement. 

According to the University website, in-person ceremonies for the class of 2020 will be held on Friday, July 16 through Sunday, July 18, and will be subject to the same protocols as the ceremonies for the class of 2021.

The class of 2021 (and 2020) will now get their in-person Commencement ceremony.

[April 28, 2021]: An internal communication from University President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., on April 28 announced the decision to host “multiple in-person ceremonies, all of which will take place on the Queens campus.” The dates for the in-person Commencement ceremonies have yet to be finalized, but Shanley said he expects that in-person ceremonies for the class of 2021 will be held in mid-July. 

“These outdoor COVID-19 compliant events will adhere to the latest and still-changing public health guidelines,” Shanley wrote.

In an email from Shanley on Feb. 25, it was announced that “given the current state of the pandemic,” Commencement was to be conducted virtually. The decision was made “reluctantly,” and Shanley stated that many modified in-person options were considered, but at that time were deemed too dangerous.

Now, according to the April 28 announcement, to attend an in-person Commencement, all guests will have to provide either proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test in advance of the ceremony to gain admittance, though details such as how much earlier have not been specified. It has not yet been announced how many guests can be in attendance.

Further details are expected next week, according to the April 28 announcement. Plans are being made both for this year’s Commencement and a Commencement for the class of 2020, which did not have an in-person Commencement last year.

The option to attend a virtual Commencement will still be available for students. These virtual ceremonies will be held from Monday, May 17 through Sunday, May 23, by respective colleges within the University. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance to state that fully vaccinated individuals can gather outdoors without “wearing a mask except in certain crowded settings and venues.” However, the CDC continues to recommend mask-wearing, especially in situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain. 

This decision comes over two weeks after an April 12 update from Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding guidelines for commencement ceremonies, which states that beginning May 1, outdoor ceremonies are permitted with limited capacity. 

These guidelines detail that for events with more than 500 attendees, venues with a total capacity of 2,500 or more will be limited to 20% capacity. Attendees must be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test administered within 72 hours of the event. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.