Dear Members of the UMass Dartmouth Community,
Earlier today, in consultation with our Commencement Committee, which includes broad representation from the colleges and a range of administrative areas on campus, I wrote to the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to inform them that, given the new commencement guidelines issued by the state, UMass Dartmouth is holding in-person, on-campus commencement ceremonies to celebrate their accomplishments. To comply with important health regulations, we will be holding multiple ceremonies during the weekend of June 11, 12, and 13, 2021.
We set the date in June to allow more time for students, families, faculty and the many staff who will work at these events to be vaccinated, as well as to give us more time to meet the extensive public health protocols for these events that have been mandated by the state. It will take time for us to fully develop plans that meet their requirements. Until then, here are some things that we have told the Classes of 2020 and 2021 that they should expect:
- The state requires that “the ceremony must be kept as brief as possible,” so our event will be shorter than a traditional commencement. Nevertheless, each graduating senior will have the opportunity to be recognized and walk across the stage.
- To ensure adequate social distancing, we’re setting a maximum of two guests per graduate. The state’s limit of six guests per graduate was designed to accommodate schools with very large arenas and other high-capacity venues.
- The ceremonies will be held rain or shine. In the unlikely event of truly unsafe, highly inclement weather, the university will assess the circumstances and may postpone the ceremony to a later date and time.
- All attendees, including faculty and staff, will be required to register and obtain tickets in advance. By law, people can only be admitted into the site with a ticket.
- All attendees, including faculty and staff, will be required to wear face coverings throughout the event, with the exception of each graduate when they are crossing the stage.
- The state guidelines prohibit communal gatherings and receptions on campus before and after the ceremony itself.
- For contact tracing reasons, attendees will be required by Massachusetts law to inform the university if they test positive for COVID in the days after the event.
We will be working closely with the Dartmouth Board of Health and following the state guidelines to ensure a safe environment. Of course, if the conditions of the pandemic worsen significantly, we may need to continue to adapt our plans.
Creating abbreviated commencement ceremonies for our students that maintain a safe environment for everyone will require all our help. We will share more information with you as our plans develop, and—as we do every year—there will be a call for volunteers to staff these events. Thank you in advance for helping the university celebrate this milestone moment with all our graduates amid the challenging circumstances of the pandemic.
Mark A. Fuller, PhD