UPDATED: Yeshiva University 90th Annual Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2021 Announced to be In-Person; Previously Announced to be Virtual

By: Shoshanah Marcus and Erica Rachel Sultan  |  March 11, 2021
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April 22, 2021 Update by Erica Rachel Sultan, News Editor: 

On April 22, 2021, the YU Committee of Commencement Ceremonies published on the Yeshiva University webpage that the 2021 Commencement Ceremony will be held in person and virtually via livestream. The event will be held on May 26, 2021, in an outdoor venue in New York City to “allow [the] senior and graduating class to celebrate together with family and friends.” The ceremony will follow strict health and safety guidelines. 

Graduating students are told to keep an eye out for emails from the YU Committee of Commencement Ceremonies in which they will receive more details. “Our staff is feverishly working to mount the ceremony (a process that usually takes many months), and so we will be unable to answer individual emails asking specific questions about the ceremony.”

Many students are looking forward to an in-person Commencement to conclude a long year of virtual classes and events. “I’m so grateful that after such a difficult year YU has decided to do an in-person graduation,” shared Kyra Firestone, SCW ‘21. “I have been taking classes fully online since March 2020, and I feel that having an in-person ceremony allows for real closure of my Stern experience. I’m so beyond excited to come in for graduation and celebrate with everyone in the proper way!!”

Other students are less excited about the recent update. One anonymous graduating student told the YU Observer, “I’m a little annoyed. My family and I already made plans around the virtual commencement ceremony and now these plans are shifted, with only a month’s notice. And it may not be the safest idea.” 

They continue, worrisome about the health precautions, “I think it’s all very risky. How are they going to monitor the people who’ve been tested for Covid-19, nevertheless those who’ve tested positive? How will they monitor people who’ve travelled from different countries and states that aren’t a part of the tri-State area?  Will international students’ families not be able to attend? This may not be the most well thought-out plan.” 

Graduating student Sarah Brill shared with the YU Observer, “As a senior, I am beyond thrilled to see this change! Having the ceremony outdoors, while also being safe is a priority both for the school and the seniors and I am so glad YU made that work. College graduation is always something to look forward to, and now we get the chance to take part in that tradition!” 

At the time of publication, the YU Observer has been unable to confirm the location of Commencement as well as the amount of guests each graduating student can bring.

 

Yeshiva University 90th Annual Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2021 Announced to be Virtual with Potential for an In-person Senior-Only Celebration
By Shoshanah Marcus, News Editor

March 11, 2021

In an email sent to the YU community on March 11, 2021, Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced that the Yeshiva University 90th Annual Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2021 will take place virtually and will not include an in-person component. However, “an in-person celebration just for undergraduate seniors, pending approval from local public health officials,” is currently being planned. The Commencement Ceremony will take place on May 26, 2021 at 1 p.m.

According to this email, this decision was not made lightly. Dr. Botman explained, “Unfortunately, following the public health and safety guidance of New York City and New York State, as well as guidance from our medical director, we came to the conclusion that we could not have an in-person event attended by thousands of people … we feel this is the best and safest option that will allow for all graduates, families, faculty and friends to participate in the celebratory event.”

Students of the Class of 2021 were confused by this reasoning considering that YU has been conducting in-person classes since the middle of the Fall 2020 semester. David Schmidt, SSSB ‘21, expressed that he “[j]ust [doesn’t] know why a student only graduation would be less safe than anything the school already does in person, like class or Morning Seder [Talmud study].” Yosef Rosenfield, YC ‘21 shared his frustration: “It’s absolutely something that can be safely done at this time. It’s just ‘safer’ for YU to claim that it isn’t.”

Some Senior students are hoping that the University will reconsider this decision. Sarah Brill, SCW ‘21, shared with the YU Observer, “As a senior, it is extremely disappointing that our school could not make any accommodation for this year’s commencement. I am the first to advocate for safety and social distancing, but there are many options for graduation to accommodate a class this small.” She added, “Universities larger than ours have considered all of the options and have decided on creative solutions so that their students can have a proper graduation. There are many options that our school has just passed by. I know our school is trying to do what is in the best interest of the student and our safety, but I feel like our school hasn’t considered all the options.” Another student stated: “While I’m sure this was a difficult decision for the administration, and one they would prefer not to have made, I would appreciate if the commencement decision was reconsidered and if student leaders were given an opportunity to collaborate with administration to create a commencement with as much of an in-person element as possible” Benji Halpern, SSSB ‘21.

Many students are frustrated with the lack of financial compensation despite the fact that Commencement will take place online. One senior who wished to remain anonymous expressed to the YU Observer, “If commencement isn’t going to be in person I’d like my graduation fee to be refunded … I don’t see why I should have to pay to get a diploma that I already paid to earn. I don’t know. I would appreciate more transparency. And if it’s to cover printing/shipping costs, my dad knows a guy who could do it for cheaper.”

Other students in the Class of 2021 expressed their general frustration regarding this decision. “I’m livid about the committee’s decision to make it virtual,” shared YSU President Zachary Greenberg, SSSB ‘21, “During our (student leaders) lone meeting with them, right off the bat they asked how we can make a virtual commencement a success tossing off the notion of in-person. At the time they told us they’re looking into outdoor venues and we stressed that having a hybrid commencement is of the utmost importance to the students. I don’t understand how fans are allowed to attend Knicks games indoors, but we can’t have a safe, socially-distant outdoor graduation. I haven’t seen a lot of my friends in months and want one last goodbye as my time in YU reaches a close.”

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