Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College
Last Friday, President Clayton Spencer announced the college’s tentative plans to host an in-person Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 27, in an email to the senior class.
This announcement followed Maine Governor Janet Mills’ executive order which loosened crowd size restrictions for large-scale public events. Effective May 24, the capacity limit for indoor gatherings will increase to 75 percent, and outdoor gatherings to 100 percent.
As of now, Commencement will consist of two separate ceremonies, with half of the senior class in each ceremony. Each senior will be given two guest tickets for family members or friends, and both ceremonies will be livestreamed for those unable to attend.
As in years past, the ceremony will occur on the Coram Library terrace on the Historic Quad. Since grades will not have been finalized by May 27, seniors will not be receiving their official diplomas during the ceremonies.
To mitigate potential COVID-19 spread, all attendees will be required to abide by the college’s public health guidelines, which include universal masking and social distancing. Those who have received COVID-19 vaccinations will not be exempt from the public health policies.
“An in-person Commencement, with the Bates community gathering to celebrate the achievements of our graduating students with their families, friends, and loved ones, is a time-honored tradition,” said Mary Pols, a spokesperson for Bates. “Gathering in front of Coram serves as a bookend to the Bates experience, as the last time the Class of 2021 gathered all together was also on the Historic Quad during Convocation on Sept. 5, 2017.”
Spencer’s announcement reflected a change for the Commencement date from the initially scheduled May 30.
“Bates selected a date for Commencement that lessens the overall public health risk to our campus and broader community and allows us to secure the logistical support needed to produce two ceremonies,” Pols explained.
Seniors who opted to study remotely during the winter semester have been given the opportunity to return to campus for the Commencement ceremonies. “Any returning student will be subject to all public health policies and the college’s COVID-19 testing program before any in-person participation on campus,” Pols said.
Bates will plan on an in-person ceremony, however President Spencer admitted that the college cannot know for certain how the pandemic will progress, or what the state guidelines will be in May.
“I hope you will understand that while our goal is to host an in-person Commencement with guests in attendance, our plans depend on the course of the pandemic over the next two months and state guidelines that apply at the time of the ceremony,” she wrote.
The college also plans to host other in-person and remote gatherings for the Class of 2021 as their time at Bates comes to a close. More information about these events will be released soon.