According to the University email sent to the senior class on Friday, students who expect to receive their degrees in the spring or summer of 2021 are now eligible to participate in the in-person commencement ceremony on June 12 and 13.
Previously, students had to have conferred or planned to confer their degrees between summer 2020 and spring 2021 to be eligible to walk at commencement. Stanford has since expanded the eligibility to include those expecting to graduate in summer 2021, in response to student advocates who claimed that the previous criteria disadvantaged students with fewer resources who may struggle to graduate “on time” or students who chose to take time off due to the pandemic.
Students interested in participating in graduation that is not currently eligible can request an exception.
Senior Class President and undergraduate representative to the Board of Trustees David Pantera ’21 advocated for expanded commencement eligibility alongside fellow class presidents Johnathan Bridges ’21, Celine Foster ’21, Virginia Miller ’21, and Jordan Oakes ’21. They created a presentation for the President’s office using testimonials from 50 students and survey responses from the senior class, expressing student concerns about the requirements.
As the University promoted opportunities for students to take time away from school to manage stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning, Pantera wrote in a statement, “it wasn’t right that students who trusted the University and took advantage of those opportunities would then be punished.”
Pantera went on to say that seniors conferring their degrees over the summer are traditionally allowed to walk in graduation and that excluding them from the ceremony was “unfair to students who took time away.”
He gives credit to all of the students who responded to the survey or provided testimonials for helping to broaden eligibility requirements: “It was the overwhelming tide of concern that caused this change — we simply alerted the administration and presented them with the recommendations.”
According to Pantera, the class presidents’ next priority will be to increase access to graduation for international students, emphasising vaccine requirements.
All students who attend the University are currently required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. According to the University’s commencement website, students and guests arriving from out of state must be fully vaccinated following California’s health orders.
“It is inequitable for the University to expect international students and their families to receive vaccines from attending commencement,” he wrote, adding that not every country has a comparable vaccine supply or distribution infrastructure to the United States.
Despite programmes such as the COVAX initiative, which aims to increase equitable access to vaccines, experts have expressed concerns about slow and inequitable vaccine rollout, particularly in developing countries.