Northeastern announces in-person plans for 2021 commencement


Photo by Cody O’Loughlin for Northeastern University

Ethan Wayne, breaking news editor

Northeastern announced a tentative plan for 2021 commencement in an email from Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Madigan Feb. 11. The update includes in-person proposals for the undergraduate and graduate classes of 2021, as well as May 2020 graduates who did not have an in-person commencement ceremony. The class of 2021 includes December 2020 graduates and May and August 2021 degree candidates. 

Northeastern was forced to cancel in-person commencement plans, hosting virtual interactions and mailing diplomas to abide by government COVID-19 guidelines in May of last year. 

Commencement plans are becoming more relevant as the university continues to distribute vaccines and restrictions relax in accordance with the Massachusetts reopening plan

For undergraduate students in the class of 2021, Madigan explained a preliminary plan to celebrate commencement May 8 in an outdoor venue, allowing one or possibly two guests for each graduating student. There will be two separate ceremonies, each for half of the students, that will abide by projected COVID-19 circumstances and protocols. 

According to the email, graduate students in the class of 2021 will have an in-person ceremony the week of May 3 through May 7. Capacity limits, venue options and guest protocol will all be communicated as details are finalized by university, city and state officials. 

Celebrations for the class of 2020 have not been officialized as interest is still being gauged by the alumni relations office. 

Madigan emphasized that, while these plans still remain provisory, the university is confident that they are achievable. 

“As of today, we remain optimistic that by early May these outdoor events, with appropriate physical distancing and other protective measures, will be feasible,” the email read.  

As of May 31, 2020, the state of Massachusetts had 96,965 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 6,846 COVID-19 related deaths and had performed 592,853 COVID-19 tests with a 7-day average positive test rate of 7.1%. As of Feb. 9, 2021, the state dashboard listed 521,045 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 14,903 COVID-19 related deaths and had performed 14,520,845 COVID-19 tests with a 7-day average positive test rate of 2.82%.