Dear members of the University of Rochester Community:

I am writing to provide an update on the 2021 Commencement. Throughout the academic year I have been grateful for the conscientious efforts of our students, faculty, and staff who have come together and followed public health guidelines to keep our community safe during the global pandemic.

While we are experiencing a promising increase in vaccinations locally and nationally, COVID-19 remains a serious threat to public health. Thus, after careful consideration we have decided to conduct hybrid commencement exercises on the weekends of May 14-16 and 21-23 that will prioritize in-person participation for our current campus community of eligible graduates, faculty, and staff. All commencement events will be streamed live online for family and friends to remotely share in our graduates’ special day. Any graduate unable to participate in person will be able to join virtually. Details about the ceremonies as well as any updates to the plans will be posted to the University’s Commencement 2021 website.

Our current policy is to keep the campus closed to visitors through the end of the academic year. Therefore, unfortunately, visitors will not be allowed to attend the ceremonies in-person. This approach, however, is subject to change as we continue to await guidance from New York state, and monitor the public health landscape for any substantive change. 

We realize that limiting the ceremony to students, faculty, and staff is a significant disappointment for our students and their families. I too am saddened to deliver such disheartening news, particularly after all this community has done to remain safe during the pandemic. But it is my hope that sharing these details now will allow family and friends to celebrate our graduates’ accomplishment responsibly while keeping our community safe.  

We studied many options before choosing this approach. And the importance of having family and friends on-hand to share in the moment weighed heavily in those deliberations. However, the welfare of our students, faculty, staff and our community is our foremost concern. 

That concern – along with stricter state public health guidelines in the early months of the pandemic – led the University to cancel last year’s in-person commencement and conduct a virtual ceremony instead. However, we continue to look for an appropriate and safe opportunity to celebrate the Class of 2020 in-person. Planning teams are currently discussing an event that could potentially include a commencement ceremony, select Senior Week traditions, and alumni activities. The intention is to hold the event in fall 2021, subject to public health requirements. More details will be shared as plans develop. We very much look forward to celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2020.

We at the University of Rochester deeply appreciate your patience as we have deliberated and taken the necessary precautions to safely navigate this ongoing threat to public health while recognizing the enormity of our graduates’ achievement. 


Sarah C. Mangelsdorf
G. Robert Witmer, Jr. University Professor