In an abrupt departure from the administration’s previous decision, University President Anthony Monaco announced that an in-person commencement will be postponed until the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
The Tufts community initially received an email on March 26 notifying members of the Class of 2020 that commencement would only take place virtually this year, due to the increasing danger of the virus. Four days later the Tufts administration reversed course, deciding to hold an in-person commencement ceremony at a later date, according to Monaco’s email sent to the Tufts community on Monday.
The initial announcement was met with an outpouring of anger and disapproval from members of the Class of 2020 as well as others in the community, including a petition to reschedule commencement that had amassed more than 4,800 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
“We received many thoughtful comments from graduates and their families that made it clear an in-person event, even if delayed to a safer, more appropriate time, was needed in order to properly recognize the achievements of graduates across the university,” Executive Director of Media Relations Patrick Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.
Monaco made the decision to delay commencement rather than hold a virtual ceremony after deliberating with trustees, the provost and other members of the university leadership, according to Collins.
“Both decisions were made with a great deal of deliberation and consideration, and I am grateful for the time and thought that many people put into the messages they sent to us to express their opinions,” Monaco wrote in an email to the Daily. “Even though Commencement might not happen as scheduled, I am confident that — at the right time — we’ll be able to honor the class of 2020 in a manner that they deserve and in a way that is worthy of this important moment in their lives.”
While the administration does not yet know when commencement for the Class of 2020 will occur, Collins added that the university will take cues from public health officials to determine when it is safe to hold large in-person gatherings again.
Many students were grateful that the university had listened to their concerns.
“In some respects, many of us [felt] that we would rather be mailed a diploma than try to feign happiness at a virtual commencement,” senior Mike Kenler wrote in an electronic message to the Daily. “I am so grateful that our school has listened to our frustrations with a virtual commencement. I think everyone let out a sigh of relief that we will still be able to maintain some sort of normalcy in the future. At the very least, we will get a proper goodbye to our college experience.”
Senior Anahita Sethi emphasized how the administration’s decision to postpone commencement can encourage students amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am beyond appreciative of the administration’s decision to postpone graduation. For me, the scariest part of this pandemic is the uncertainty — it terrifies me not knowing how and when it will all finally end. An in-person commencement will finally give us all something positive to look forward to,” Sethi wrote in an electronic message to the Daily.
She noted, however, that while having an in-person ceremony will allow for some closure of her college experience, many aspects of her senior spring are unobtainable.
“There are still so many things on my college bucket list that I will never get to do. I spent my last night at Tufts visiting my freshman year dorm. I ran into some first-years that were packing up and had a really nice heart-to-heart with them,” she said. “I told them I would really give anything to be doing something as simple as walking home with my friends from a long night of studying at Tisch.”
In-person senior week events have also been cancelled, according to an email sent to the Class of 2020 from the Tufts University Social Collective (TUSC) on March 27. TUSC announced plans for “virtual offerings specifically for the Class of 2020” put together by a new subgroup, called “Tufts University Social Distancing.”