Two years after the conclusion of their time at the University, the Class of 2020 will finally get an in-person Commencement ceremony.
Commencement will take place on May 18, 2022 for undergraduate students from the Class of 2020 and graduate students who finished their master’s degree or Ph.D. in the 2019-2020 academic year. It has been scheduled for just before Reunions, which is presently set to occur in-person for the first time since 2019.
When the University initially shifted the Class of 2020’s Commencement to a virtual format, it was rescheduled for “the days just before Reunions 2021.” In Feb. 2021, the University then decided that the postponed Commencement and Reunions would not be able to take place on campus because of the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Class of 2021 was able to hold a socially-distant ceremony last spring, but it had been unclear if or when the Class of 2020 would be able to celebrate together. Some students from the class had been calling for the University to hold an in-person Commencement due to feeling that their virtual ceremony had not been sufficient.
In the press release announcing the new date for the ceremony, University Spokesperson Ben Chang described the public health considerations that led to the decision to hold Commencement in 2022 rather than 2020 or 2021.
“We were all profoundly disappointed that we were unable to organize an event sooner given the public health restrictions put in place across New Jersey and the impact of the pandemic on our campus and our staff,” Chang said.
“With increasing rates of vaccinations and the lifting of social distancing requirements, the University feels confident they will be able to welcome back the undergraduate Class of 2020, grad alumni, and families for the Commencement celebration next spring,” he continued.
The Alumni Engagement team will collaborate with the undergraduate Class of 2020 leadership team to plan Commencement, along with the Graduate School, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Office of the Vice President and Secretary, and other campus departments. Undergraduate and graduate alumni will soon receive a survey to assist with the efforts to coordinate the event.
The survey will include questions about how many members of the Class of 2020 intend to attend the ceremony, how many guests members of the class hope to bring, and preferences about speakers and other elements of the event, as explained by Chang in an email to The Daily Princetonian. Members of the class will also be asked if they are interested in participating in a working group to assist in the planning process for the ceremony. The University hopes to compile all survey responses by late July.
Alumni class president Juston Forte ’20 described his experience working with the University to plan the ceremony.
“The decision to hold the in-person Commencement is the culmination of support from various individuals at the University and across the Alumni Community. My officers and I were working on this for several months and have heard first-hand how much the University and Alumni Community cares for our class,” he wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’.
After previously expressing concerns about class engagement with the University, Forte wrote that he is “optimistic this commencement will help foster class unity and begin repairing Class of ’20’s relationship with the University and Alumni community.”
“For me and the Class of 2020, the in person Commencement marks an opportunity to get a proper send-off from Princeton and celebrate it properly with friends/family. It gives us an opportunity to share this moment with our fellow ’20, most of whom we haven't seen since we were sent home in March 2020 and get a formal end to our time at Princeton,” he wrote.
Ben Parker ’20 expressed similar feelings of excitement about Commencement.
“I’m really looking forward to commencement - I think it will give us more of a sense of closure to our college experience, and there are a lot of friends that I haven’t seen since leaving campus. Even though it’s happening 2 years late, I think it’s going to be really great for the Class of 2020 to have our own day that celebrates us, our achievements, and our contributions to Princeton,” Parker wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’.
“I’m really just looking forward to reconnecting with my friends, the organizations and teams I was a part of, and seeing Princeton again!” he continued.
The University hopes to accommodate families and loved ones who wish to come to the ceremony and celebrate the Class of 2020.
“The presence of families and loved ones is an important part of creating an event that celebrates the achievement of the Class and is meaningful to them and their families,” Chang wrote in an email.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to impact the planning process.
“The planning team will continually assess the measures in place on campus and statewide to protect the public health of our community in the face of the ongoing pandemic as well as factor in logistics (such as parking, available seating, and other accommodations) in determining how many guests will be able to attend – all with the goal of ensuring a pleasant and sustainable experience for the Class, graduate alumni of 2019-20, and their guests,” Chang wrote.
Parker recommended that the University provide financial support to help the Class of 2020 attend the event.
“One thing I think would be a really good gesture is if the administration allocated some funding to make sure that every Class of 2020 member gets to come back to Princeton, especially those for whom travel expenses might be prohibitively expensive,” he wrote.
Chang did not yet have any information regarding financial resources for the Class of 2020.
Commencement is not the only event that will celebrate the Class of 2020. According to an email from Chang, the Class will also have a commemorative dinner on May 19, 2022, followed by their first in-person Reunions from May 19–22.
Chang discussed the University’s excitement for Commencement in an email to the ‘Prince’.
“Most importantly, we hope the in-person Commencement event and the opportunity to participate in Reunions will be a meaningful celebration of the achievements of the Class of 2020,” he wrote.
“Commencement and Reunions are signature moments in every Princetonian's lifelong relationship with the University and fellow alumni, and we hope the opportunity to celebrate these milestone events in person will strengthen each individual class member’s sense of connection with the University and the alumni community,” he added.