FAQs: What to expect when you’re expecting Commencement 2021

Updated on May 7, 2021

Prepared especially for Bates parents, families, and support networks, below are FAQs about this year’s Commencement ceremony, which will offer much that is familiar, and much that will be new, all guided by COVID-19 protocols to help ensure the health and safety of all participants on this very happy and important day.

If you have any questions, email commencement2021@groups.bates.edu

What, where, when

When is Bates Commencement 2021?

The 155th Commencement of Bates College will be on Thursday, May 27, 2021, on the Coram Library Terrace on the Historic Quad.

Will it be in-person?

Yes, seniors will be able to participate in person, along with a limited audience.

What is the format?

Bates will offer two full Commencement ceremonies, each accommodating half the senior class, in order to celebrate in person, while adhering to state regulations regarding the number of participants and physical distancing.

Are family members allowed to attend?

Each graduating senior may invite two guests to attend in person. These guests must obtain tickets in order to be admitted to the ceremony on May 27.

If a graduating senior is studying remotely this semester, can they come back to Maine to participate in Commencement?

Yes. While Bates is not requiring seniors returning to campus for Commencement Day to take a COVID-19 test at Bates, they must follow Guest and Returning Senior Testing and Vaccination Policy.

May a very young child attend without a ticket? 

We will not be able to accommodate lap children or infants as extra, unticketed guests, even if they share the same seat as an adult.

Can I get an extra ticket if I have been vaccinated?

No, the two guest limit holds regardless of vaccination status.  

What the ceremony will look like

What will the Commencement look like?

Many elements of a traditional Commencement — such as the processional; various welcomes, remarks, and addresses; and presentation of seniors — will be offered as usual. Each senior will be announced and invited to cross across the Coram Library Terrace and be congratulated by President Clayton Spencer.

Will there be a Senior Speaker and honorary degrees awarded?

There will be a Senior Speaker at both ceremonies. Bates will award four honorary degrees. The honorands will not be in attendance but each will offer brief, recorded remarks.

Can graduating seniors choose which graduation ceremony to attend?

Students have been assigned to ceremonies alphabetically.

What are the start times of the two Commencements?

The hour by hour schedule features the morning Commencement beginning at 9 a.m., the afternoon Commencement at 3 p.m.

Who else besides seniors and two ticketed guests will attend?

Following strict college COVID-19 protocols and Maine guidelines for capacity limits and physical distancing in outdoor settings, the ceremony will include graduating seniors, their two guests, plus leaders of the ceremony, known as the “platform party,” including President Spencer, deans, and administrators. 

The opportunity for seniors to greet their professors, and vice-versa, at Commencement will be determined in the coming weeks.

Will seniors receive diplomas from President Spencer?

Due to the logistics of this year’s academic calendar — classes ending immediately prior to graduation — graduating seniors will receive their official diplomas after Commencement by mail.

President Spencer will offer congratulations to each senior as they cross the Coram Terrace. But there will be no handshakes this year, for reasons of physical distancing and other COVID-19 protocols.

When does a senior officially graduate?

Prior to Commencement, the Board of Trustees and the Bates faculty will approve Bates degrees to the Class of 2021. The official conferral date — which will be on the diploma — will be May 30, 2021, the original date of Commencement.

What kind of celebratory senior events will Bates offer? What will be permitted?

The Office of Campus Life will be working closely with the Senior Class Co-Presidents and the Dean of Faculty’s Office to provide celebratory events and programs for the senior class. Details will be shared with the senior class as plans evolve. 

Celebrating your Bates senior

How can parents, families, and support networks celebrate our Bates senior?

Check out our social media frames and stickers as well as print files for yard signs to help you celebrate your Bates senior.

You can also shop the Bates Store and outfit yourself in fresh Bobcat gear for spring Zooms and for your Commencement watch party.

Will there be a place on campus where my loved ones can view the Commencement Ceremony?

All campus resources will be leveraged to support the in-person Commencement ceremony and therefore there will not be alternative viewing locations offered on campus.

Will there be opportunities for Class of 2021 families to gather virtually to connect and celebrate?

Yes! We know that families do so much to support students throughout their Bates journey, and we want to celebrate you, too. Please watch for email outreach and invitations throughout the spring.

Can undergraduate siblings of graduating seniors stay on campus for Commencement?

With prior approval from the Office of Residence Life and Health Education, siblings of graduating seniors will be allowed to remain on campus an additional night to depart campus with their families on May 27. Dining access will not be available for students with this extension. More information about this process will be available in mid-April. Students with questions before then should reach out to housing@bates.edu

What are the college’s plans to recognize the Class of 2020’s graduation?

Our goal is to bring the Class of 2020 back to campus for a celebration when public health conditions allow for a large campus gathering that does not require physical distancing, and when we can manage that celebration in concert with all of our other campus programs. 

Public health guidelines

What are the guidelines for participants and guests at Commencement 2021?

Each senior who is returning to campus for Commencement Day and each guest attending Commencement and/or assisting their students as they move out of their residence hall is expected follow these specific public-health guidelines.

I have been vaccinated. Do I have to wear a mask to the in-person event?

Yes, all in-person attendees must observe the college health guidelines in place for face coverings and physical distancing, regardless of their vaccination status. Anyone who is unable to do so will be asked to leave the event.

Where can I learn about the regulations affecting international air travel into the US?

The Federal CDC offers guidance informing travel into the United States from other countries. Please notice that “all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.” This test must be taken within 3 days of your departure date and shown to the airline.  For specific information about preparing to travel and next steps to take, please visit the Testing and International Travel page on the Federal CDC website.

There are also Presidential Proclamations that restrict travel from specific regions. If you have questions about how any of these Proclamations may affect your ability to travel, please contact globaleducation@bates.edu.

Where can I learn about the regulations affecting domestic travel into Maine?

Maine CDC regulations require that all individuals who travel to Maine must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entering the state.  Exceptions based on state of origin, vaccination status, or previously testing positive for COVID-19 can be found in the link provided.

The Commencement livestream

How can I watch the livestream?

The livestream will be public — any friends and family members will be able to watch.

The two locations will afford the same viewer experience., With a four-camera setup, the livestream will show everything that takes place!

Will I be able to download the video file?

Yes. After the livestream is done, the video will be available on demand on Facebook and on the Bates YouTube channel, and available on demand and for download at https://www.bates.edu/commencement/live/

What time will the livestream begin?

We will announce all “when to watch” details in the coming weeks.

How can families and loved ones participate in the Commencement livestream?

Our goal is to use all elements of social media to help a wide range of families and loved ones join this event in the virtual space. The event will be available on the Bates College Facebook page, allowing audience members to share in real-time their congratulations and shout-outs.

Leading up to Commencement, family members and loved ones can contribute a sentiment to the seniors, and it will appear on the #Bates2021 aggregation page within the hour. 

What if I will not be at home, at a hotel, or in another location with WiFi on the morning of Commencement and want to watch the livestream?

If you are concerned about your ability to view the Commencement livestream, please complete this form by April 17, 2021. We will do our best to find a solution for families with this challenge.

Will the ceremony livestream be accessible to viewers with disabilities? 

As with all Bates programming, we are committed to providing an accessible and inclusive commencement experience for students and their loved ones. While access considerations have been an important part of the planning process, we know that we may not be able to anticipate every potential barrier or need ahead.

If you anticipate barriers or would like to request an accommodation related to any of the planned programs, activities, or materials, please reach out to Brenda Pelletier, associate director of conferences and campus events, bpelleti@bates.edu, 207-786-6400.

Will I experience connectivity issues, as I do with video conferencing?

Bates has successfully streamed past Commencements through the Facebook platform, and it’s proven reliable and accessible. There still could be hiccups based on internet speed and signal strength.

What if English is not my preferred language? Will the ceremony livestream have translation tools available?

All text on the college’s Commencement website can be translated into a variety of languages using the flags in the upper right. The livestream itself is likely to have auto-generated captions in English, but within 48 hours of the livestream, we can provide closed captions of the event in to-be-determined additional languages. We’ll continue to update this information.