Ithaca College is planning to make an announcement regarding the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 this month, said Doreen Hettich-Atkins, executive director of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus life.
The college did not have an in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The college had originally delayed the ceremony from May 17, 2020, to Aug. 2. The college held virtual commencement ceremonies Aug. 2–6 after announcing that there would be no in-person commencement. Members of the Class of 2020 are invited to the 2021 Alumni Weekend, which will be held June 25–27, to participate in the Senior Splash and other celebratory events. Commencement for the Class of 2021 is scheduled to be held May 23.
Tompkins County has seen a decrease in the number of active COVID-19 cases, with cases dipping below 100 for the first time since November 2020. As of March 10, there were 98 active cases in the county. Ithaca College had seven active cases as of March 10: one residential student, five off-campus students and one staff member.
The college is also changing how the student speaker will be picked. Usually, the speaker is the president of the senior class, but this year, students were invited to participate in a competition to be picked as the speaker. Eligible students must be graduating in December 2020, May 2021, August 2021 or December 2021 and have a minimum of 60 credits at the college. Applications were due March 3. Finalists will present their final speech to the Student Speaker Selection Committee from March 23 to 25. The selected speaker will be notified March 29.
Senior Ali Kelley, senior class president, said that when she ran for the position she was aware that President Shirley M. Collado was looking to change who the student speaker was at commencement.
“I didn’t run for this position to speak at graduation even though it was a nice perk,” Kelley said via email. “I ran to represent my class and make our last year at IC the best it could be with the given circumstances.”
Cornell University announced that it does not know whether an in-person commencement will be held. However, a decision will be made in March, like Ithaca College. The university did not hold an in-person commencement for its Class of 2020 either. The university also said it would hold reunions for the Class of 2020 in person this spring but decided to move all of them online.
Across the country, some colleges have already made decisions regarding commencement. The University of Florida and the University of South Carolina are planning to hold smaller commencement ceremonies spread over a period of time to accommodate social distancing measures. Some colleges holding in-person ceremonies are planning to reduce the number of guests in attendance as well, whereas some are restricting ceremonies to graduates only. Other universities, like the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Colorado; and the University of Iowa, will be holding virtual ceremonies.