The class of 2021′s Commencement ceremony will be held online this April, the Commencement Office announced on its website today. The ceremony will take place on Friday, April 30, at 10:30 a.m.
The University has opted to hold the ceremony virtually in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of over 500,000 Americans. Gatherings of more than 10 people in attendance are banned in New York state for the foreseeable future. This is the second year in a row that Commencement will be held virtually because of the pandemic.
Columbia is the first Ivy League university to announce that it will be holding Commencement entirely virtually. Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, and Cornell University have yet to announce their plans. Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University are all planning to hold ceremonies with some in-person components. Brown, for example, will have an in-person commencement ceremony for students, but families and other guests will attend virtually.
Last year’s in-person Commencement for Columbia and Barnard was canceled in late March, shortly after students were sent home at the onset of the pandemic. Both University President Lee Bollinger and Barnard President Sian Beilock had promised graduating students that in-person celebrations would follow in the near future when public health guidelines allowed. It is still unclear what future in-person celebrations the classes of 2020 and 2021 can expect.
Before COVID-19, the annual Commencement ceremony had only seen two major disruptions: in 1775, when the president of King’s College at the time, Myles Cooper, fled to England to evade a mob of patriots at the start of the American Revolutionary War, and again in 1968 when it was moved to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from Low Plaza because of the 1968 protests.
Each school’s Class Day celebrations will be announced in the coming days by its respective dean. Class Day celebrations will still take place during the week following the end of spring exams, in the days leading up to Commencement.