Requesting your Input on Commencement 2021

Dear Champlain Class of 2021,

Last month, we shared our plans for Commencement 2021 and our decision to hold a virtual Commencement. We have since heard from many of you and your families regarding your disappointment over the lack of an in-person component to the event. Based on your feedback and the continued evolution of the pandemic, we have developed three possible options that we shared in the Student Forum with the SGA and in an email to all students last week. 

We want to move forward with a plan that best reflects the preferences of your class, while also meeting the state of Vermont’s health and safety guidance. We have outlined the three options below; we ask that you consider them carefully, then use this survey to indicate your preferred option. Please submit your response by 6:00 PM on Sunday, March 21. We will announce your decision next week. 

The three options are as follows: 

OPTION 1: Conduct a virtual commencement in May 2021 as previously announced, while also exploring the opportunity for an in-person 2020/2021 celebration event in 2021/2022 once it is safe to gather in large groups;

OPTION 2: Conduct a hybrid event in May 2021, with virtual and in-person components;

OPTION 3: Conduct an in-person commencement in the fall with no May celebration.

Here are additional details to help you fully understand what is involved with each option:

OPTION 1: 100% Virtual May Ceremony

This option would be most inclusive of all of our students, as it would be equally accessible for students who are studying in Burlington right now and those who are located across the country to safely celebrate with friends and family. 

The virtual ceremony would include speakers from your class and the community, the reading of names of every graduating student, send-offs from your Champlain faculty, and more. Graduates would still receive caps/gowns/tassels, cords and stoles, and we would provide ideas for hosting your own commencement remotely. 

Once it is safe for large gatherings, we would plan an alumni event to bring together the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 for an in-person celebration.

OPTION 2: Hybrid May Event with Virtual and In-Person Components

For this option, the main ceremony would take place virtually, including remarks from the same speakers as in Option 1—President, VPAA, Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, the honorary degree candidate and senior class speakers. 

Students who are already in the testing pool on campus or who have met the requirements of the state of Vermont COVID guidelines and can show proof of a negative COVID test 48-hours in advance of Commencement would be able to participate in in-person diploma ceremonies, which will augment the virtual ceremony. These ceremonies would be limited to graduating seniors and would exclude any friends or family members from attending. Each diploma ceremony would be live-streamed so those watching from home and those students not eligible to attend would still have their names read in real-time. 

The diploma ceremonies would take place in various locations on campus at varying times. Students would be assigned a location and time to attend their diploma ceremony in person in advance of graduation. 

During the diploma ceremonies, students would hear a brief introduction by a Dean or member of the faculty, followed by the reading of names. Each student would come to the stage, pick up their diploma cover, potentially stop for a brief photo on stage, and then exit. In alignment with health regulations, there would be no handshakes as students cross the stage. 

Please note that in order for any in-person components to be considered, we need many things to align, including, importantly, changes to state guidance, which currently does not permit large gatherings over 75 people inside or 150 people outside socially distanced. 

Some students have inquired about commencement viewing parties. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide additional space for viewing events, as any potential spaces on campus would need to be dedicated to socially-distanced diploma ceremonies. 

OPTION 3: In-Person Fall Commencement with No May Ceremony 

A Fall Commencement would follow our pre-pandemic format. It would take place at the Champlain Valley Expo, and all Commencement speakers and ceremonies would be in person. 

We recognize that a higher percentage of your classmates might choose not to come back in the fall or might not be able to attend if they are outside of Vermont and unable to travel. This option also entails some uncertainty in terms of whether state guidance will allow large groups to gather by Fall 2021 and what protocols might still be in place. 

Please review these options carefully, take a few days to discuss them with your friends and family, and using this survey, pick the option you are most comfortable with by 6:00 PM on Sunday, March 21. 

With any of the options above, we remain committed to hosting a meaningful, personal, and memorable virtual ceremony that lifts up your class, showcases your years at Champlain, and includes our many commencement traditions. We appreciate you sharing your perspective and will keep you informed of final plans. If you have questions or need additional information please contact graduation@champlain.edu.

Sincerely,

Benjamin Ola. Akande, Ph.D.
Champlain College President

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