By Tom Quach
Stanford will host an in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 during the spring or early summer of 2022, the University announced in a Monday email, citing improving conditions and loosening restrictions.
“After more than a year of detours and unexpected opportunities, we’ll be excited to have you back — once again — at your starting point,” wrote the University to members of the Class of 2020.
Stanford will set a date for the ceremony by Aug. 16, more than a year after the University’s 2020 graduates received a completely virtual celebration. This announcement follows a successful in-person Class of 2021 commencement in Stanford Stadium in June.
Multiple factors influenced the decision during the planning process, including frosh and sophomores studying on campus this summer, an influx of students returning this fall, continued safety precautions and vigilance for an increase in campus density and uncertain weather conditions that “can vary greatly until the spring” of 2022.
After a number of requests from the graduating community for a full-fledged celebration, the University wrote that graduation and related events — the Time Capsule and Senior Dinner on the Quad hosted by the Stanford Alumni Association — will “take place at a time of minimal or no restrictions,” allowing for family and friends to be present.
“We intend to make that happen,” the University wrote, adding that members of the Stanford community can submit ideas and preferences for consideration.
Recent graduates found hope in the news of an upcoming in-person graduation ceremony, though they did not forget the administration’s lack of clarity when the pandemic first struck in 2020.
Clarissa Gutierrez ’20, a first-generation graduate, said she is grateful for this opportunity to “return to campus and share this beautiful milestone with my family.”
Upon receiving the morning notification, she immediately forwarded the message to her mother, who replied, “‘Al final siempre sale el sol,’ which loosely translates to ‘in the end, the sun always rises,’” Gutierrez wrote to The Daily.
Gutierrez hopes that the Stanford administration will provide adequate and accessible resources for all those attending, especially first-generation/low income students and their families.
“Integral graduation traditions,” such as Wacky Walk, are what Aparna Verma ’20 looks forward to. However, recounting how the pandemic ruined her class’s senior experience, Verma wished the Stanford administration was “more empathic” to its students during the onset of rapid change.
“Instead of creating events or sending swag or a letter of concern, Stanford gave us a rushed 20 minute virtual ceremony,” Verma wrote to The Daily.
The administration’s lack of transparency and surface optimism misled the Class of 2020 into believing something substantial would occur when, in reality, nothing ended up panning out, according to Noelle Chow ’20.
“It felt a bit like a captain trying to tell us that the boat wasn’t sinking because they believed they could fix it,” Chow said. “But then the boat did end up sinking.”
When the email announcement first appeared on her phone Monday, Chow prepared herself to read that Stanford — in an attempt to soften the blow — would host additional virtual or localized ceremonies since people are living around the world.
Chow isn’t alone. Andrew Garcia ’20 also said that he initially felt apprehension prior to opening the email.
“I didn’t want to read another ‘non-answer’ as to when we were going to have our graduation ceremony,” he said.
However, upon reading the confident update, Chow was “floored.” After sitting on her living room couch during virtual graduation week, she feels that this will be an opportunity to reunite with her close friends and reconnect with her peers.
“Seeing that email honestly brought back all of those emotions” of her final days on campus before the onset of the pandemic, Chow said. “Right now, I am in overdrive thinking about how wonderful it will be to see my class.”
Perhaps even more meaningful is the fact that parents and loved ones of the featured graduates will have the opportunity to attend, Chow said. “I’m so excited for my mom, for her to have her roses, for her to go to that ceremony.”
Similar to Gutierrez, Chow shared the announcement with her mom, who said, “Oh my god, we are going to have our moment! We are not just going to have a piece of paper, we are going to get a picture of Noelle on stage with her diploma and name being said.”
“That moment will be super, super special,” Chow said. “My people will get to have a ceremony and be celebrated too.”