Date: February 8, 2021
TO: The NYU Community
FROM: NYU President Andrew Hamilton

Dear NYU Community, and especially the Class of 2021:

For many of us, Commencement is the highlight of each academic year. Since the resumption of classes last fall, we have been hoping that circumstances would align themselves so that we would be able to safely hold a traditional in-person Commencement ceremony. Unfortunately and with much regret, I am letting you know that it has become clear to us that we will not be able to come together in person for Commencement and must instead proceed, as we had to last year, with a virtual Commencement.

We did not come to this decision lightly. We researched a range of scenarios —
indoor and outdoor, with and without guests, a traditional ceremony or a modified one — and repeatedly ran into the obstacle that we simply cannot gather enough people safely to hold an in-person ceremony. With the slow rollout of vaccines, emergence of the new COVID variants, and the persistence of higher rates of COVID transmission than we were seeing just a few months ago, it is highly unlikely that restrictions on mass gatherings would be lifted in New York City to a level that Commencement in May would be feasible. Indeed, major city venues remain closed and will not open until well into the summer or fall. And ongoing travel restrictions limit the ability of our students and their guests to travel to New York for a ceremony.

The virtual Commencement will take place on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. And the Class of 2021 will be invited to return for an in-person ceremony when public health guidelines permit us to do so.

Those in the Class of 2020, whom we had hoped to invite back this spring for their belated Commencement, will need to continue to wait for their in-person ceremony; this additional postponement is a source of great disappointment for us, as we know it must also be for last year’s graduates. But we promise you as well an in-person celebration when we can.

The individual schools will be in touch with the Class of 2021 in the coming weeks to outline their plans for school-based ceremonies. The Office of University Events also will be reaching out to graduating students with details about how we will celebrate them and recognize their achievements in a way that is meaningful and befitting of this significant milestone.

To the Class of 2021: Whatever the format in which we celebrate you, please be assured it comes with our great pride in your achievements — all the more remarkable in light of the challenges of the past year, which you have overcome with grace and resilience.

Andrew Hamilton