Commencement Update, 1/21/21

Dear Members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021,

Amid all the challenges the past year has brought, one of the bright spots for us here at Washington University has been looking forward to celebrating your accomplishments at Commencement ceremonies for all of you. We have been busy preparing for ceremonies to be held here in St. Louis – on Friday, May 21 for the Class of 2021 and Sunday, May 30 for the Class of 2020 – and we remain hopeful that we will be able to proceed as planned.

Of course there is still a great deal of uncertainty around what the next several months will bring and what will be possible within the constraints of public health restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. As we monitor developments here and across the country, we are keeping a close eye on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. We also remain in close contact with St. Louis regional leaders and, as always, we continue to receive guidance from our infectious disease experts at the School of Medicine.

We are committed to doing everything possible to hold our Commencement ceremonies as planned. At the same time, we must acknowledge that there is much about this situation that is beyond our control. We cannot predict whether large gatherings will be permitted in St. Louis in May, if restrictions on travel or visitors to campus will be in place, or how the pandemic could potentially worsen before then. If we are unable to hold one large event for each of our classes, we may need to consider having a number of smaller ceremonies instead, which would likely lead to additional days adjacent to May 21 and May 30. In any scenario, everyone who is planning to attend will be required to register, and there may be other changes to our usual protocols. We will make every decision with the health and safety of our community – including all of you and your families and guests – as our highest priority. We will only go forward with our plans if it is safe to do so.

As much as we all want nothing more than to get back to normal and resume our most valued traditions – Commencement chief among them – we know we need to remain flexible and open to the twists and turns of this situation, as we have since the very beginning. While we cannot say what the future holds, what we can tell you definitively is this: We will make every effort to hold Commencement ceremonies in person in St. Louis, as planned. If we end up with no choice but to change course, we will be transparent and timely in our communications, and you can rest assured that we will keep working to make good on our promise to plan events that will be worthy of your achievements. We cannot say today exactly what that will look like, but we are 100 percent committed to making that happen.

We know you will need time to adjust your plans in the event that we do need to change the date or location of one or both Commencement ceremonies. We will send an update no later than February 26 to let you know where things stand and what we believe will be possible, based on conditions at that time. We also will share new information on the Commencement website as it becomes available.

We remain grateful to all of you for the many ways you have stepped up and shown your support for our efforts to manage the pandemic’s impact on the university. We are staying positive and hoping spring will be a turning point for our country, our region and for Washington University, and that we will be able to come together again. The ability to hold in-person Commencement ceremonies will represent a major milestone in our recovery, and we cannot wait to see you then.

Sincerely,

Beverly Wendland
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Robert M. Wild
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs