The University of Chicago will hold a virtual Convocation ceremony this June and is planning limited, in-person diploma ceremonies for the Class of 2021.
The virtual Convocation ceremony will confer degrees to this year’s graduates and celebrate their accomplishments. Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and guidance by the Centers for Disease Control, public health officials, and UChicago faculty and physicians working on the forefront of the COVID-19 response, University leaders determined that it would not be practical or safe to proceed with planning a gathering of several thousand people.
The University is planning smaller, in-person diploma ceremonies for each school and division, which will be limited to graduates and participating faculty and staff in order to maximize health and safety mitigations. Consultation with experts at the University of Chicago Medicine has emphasized that the safety of in-person gatherings will depend on managing the density of attendees at outdoor locations across campus. Therefore, families and guests of the Class of 2021 will be able to view the diploma ceremonies virtually and are strongly discouraged from traveling to campus. Any in-person gatherings will depend on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidance at the time.
“We recognize that participation in Convocation ceremonies is, for many, a special experience, enjoyed with the whole University and in the company of one’s friends, family and classmates. We recognize, also, that this is not the Convocation experience we had hoped for our Class of 2021,” wrote President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee in a message to the University community. “Our plan is intended to provide as much of the distinctive Convocation experience as is safe to contemplate given the uncertainty of the months ahead.”
Since 1893, the University’s Convocation has brought together a full range of members of the University community: degree candidates and their families, alumni, friends, faculty, staff members, deans, officers and trustees of the University, the provost, and the president. Although this year’s celebration will be different due to the pandemic, President Zimmer and Provost Lee wrote that the University community will find ways to celebrate the Class of 2021 that are “both singular and enduring.”
“Demonstrating admirable resilience, our community continues to manage through an unprecedented situation, and face challenges none of us expected,” they added. “The decisions we make now are not optimal, but they are necessary when considering our responsibility to one another and to the broader communities of which we are a part.”
The University will continue to evaluate public health conditions and explore ways to involve 2020 and 2021 graduates in future, in-person Convocation ceremonies.
Students and faculty will hear from their deans and deans of students as individual plans for diploma ceremonies develop. The Convocation website will be updated as new information about the virtual Convocation ceremony, diploma ceremonies and other activities becomes available.