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Say Hello to Proper Goodbyes

By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Farewell, pixelated faces; hello actual farewells. This spring, Harvard will host an in-person Commencement ceremony for the first time in over two years, bringing back the graduated (and soon graduating) Classes of 2020 and 2021 for the goodbye they never got. The ceremony — a make up for the two glorified slideshows that heralded Covid-era graduations — will take place in Tercentenary Theatre with “as much pomp and circumstance” as usual, according to University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s announcement Thursday.

We are giddy at the news. To quote President Bacow, the ceremony signals the end of an “extraordinarily trying time” that put so much togetherness on hold. The students the ceremony will celebrate know this better than anyone. Our peers from the Classes of ’20 and ’21 saw their college careers end on a random Tuesday in March, and were whisked off to the rest of their lives before in-person classes resumed, dining halls reopened, and campus returned to its standard density. The long wait — the months of uncertainty and letdowns regarding when celebrations might be safe again, the protracted period without college parties and faces — only renders the reunion more meaningful. This makeup graduation feels, perhaps prematurely, like a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel.

In that spirit of renewal, we encourage returning students to re-invest in the relationships, conversations, and communities the pandemic stunted, if only for a weekend! The ceremony will be an opportunity to gain closure and to reflect on the academic and personal growth that has no doubt crystalized since their college days. We hope our graduated graduates leave the ceremony feeling that this chapter of their lives finally got the ending it deserved. Hopefully, Commencement can provide closure for those still grieving what the past years could have been.

Last year, we expressed concern that the University’s lofty ambitions of a multi-class graduation would prove to be a hollow promise. We are delighted to have been proven wrong. Not only has the University followed through on its promise to hold a late graduation ceremony, but it has also taken comprehensive steps to ensure it is accessible. Harvard will be withholding registration charges, providing meals and campus housing free of charge, and is even offering financial assistance for transportation to those who need it. Such measures will hopefully increase attendance, minimizing the impact of “post-graduation scatter” which has plagued other after-the-fact graduations and strengthening what already seems like a promising ceremony.

We have only one minor complaint, or rather request, for the ceremony’s organizers. The University has yet to clearly express its guest policy. As of writing, the FAQ page mentions only that graduates will have “a limited number of tickets” to give away to friends and family, without specifying the number of visitors that will be welcomed. Cambridge hotels are notoriously expensive, and fill up months in advance during regular graduation years; three graduations stuffed into one weekend will only compound the nightmare. Given the understandably high anticipation surrounding the twin ceremonies and the logistical reality that travel costs rise and housing options shrink with each day, we urge the University to make said information available as soon as possible.

This fall, after semesters apart and far too many hours spent on Zoom, two Harvard classes will get a chance to tie a bow on their college lives, just like every class before them. Amid the pandemic, a generation of students has endured crushing deferrals of key milestones. But hope springs eternal. Come May, we hope the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will be able to celebrate their accomplishments big and small and bid a proper goodbye to fair Harvard.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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