January 26, 2021 | Office of the President

Commencement 2021 (January 26, 2021)

To Bowdoin students,

I am writing today about Commencement, but first a word about the keys to making it through the spring semester safely.

As you know, we are in the midst of the most difficult period thus far in the COVID-19 pandemic. I remain confident in our plan for the semester, but it will take commitment and discipline on everyone’s part—students, faculty, and staff—to keep all of us and the Brunswick community safe and to make it to Commencement in May. For those living on campus or in-residence, here are the four simple things that will have an enormously powerful impact on keeping us safe:

  • wear a mask, properly;
  • remain physically distanced and avoid large gatherings;
  • practice good hygiene; and
  • show up for your scheduled COVID-19 tests.

Even if you won’t be on campus this semester, wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and maintaining proper hygiene are the critical steps that will help keep you and others safe.

Now, on Commencement—our plans for an in-person ceremony for students on the steps of the Walker Art Building on Saturday, May 29, remain unchanged, and I remain confident that we can execute this plan while also keeping you and others at the College safe. However, given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic—including the new variants of the virus and the slower-than-expected rollout of vaccinations—family members and other guests should plan to attend the ceremony and other Commencement-related events virtually.

This is not a decision any of us wanted to make, especially because you and your families have already sacrificed and endured so much. We have carefully considered several scenarios that might have let us welcome guests to campus for Commencement, including using our athletic fields to maintain physical distancing while providing a live video feed of the ceremony on the Quad. Unfortunately, state restrictions on the size of gatherings and other factors—including the inadvisability of travel and questions about the availability of hotel and restaurant facilities—have caused us to restrict the ceremony to members of the senior class, including those studying remotely this semester. We will have more information soon for seniors who are studying remotely but who want to attend Commencement and the activities leading up to it in person.

We are letting you know about this now so that you can plan properly. If conditions improve between now and May, we will look carefully at making changes that might allow us to safely welcome family members and other guests to campus. But since there will be a number of family members and friends who will be unable to attend Commencement this year under any circumstances, we have begun work on a comprehensive virtual and livestreamed program that will ensure that they and others can participate as fully as possible.

In the coming weeks, we will provide additional details about Commencement programming on our Commencement website. If you have questions, please submit them here.

While this news is probably not completely unexpected, given the state of the pandemic, I know it is disappointing for you and for your family members—it is for us as well. We will do everything we can to make this day a proper celebration of all you have achieved and a memorable occasion for you and your families. Please stay safe as you travel to campus in the coming days. All of us at the College look forward to your return.