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Nearly 90 Percent of Classes of 2020 and 2021 Plan to Attend Joint Commencement Ceremony, Khurana Says

Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana discussed the upcoming Commencement Exercises in an interview last Thursday.
Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana discussed the upcoming Commencement Exercises in an interview last Thursday. By Pei Chao Zhuo
By Vivi E. Lu and Leah J. Teichholtz, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana said in a Thursday interview that nearly 90 percent of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 said they plan to return to Harvard and attend their delayed Commencement ceremony later this month.

The University announced last fall that it would hold a joint Commencement on May 29 for the Classes of 2020 and 2021, whose in-person graduation ceremonies were postponed due to the pandemic. The Class of 2022 will have a separate graduation ceremony three days prior.

Khurana said he is eagerly awaiting the celebrations of all three classes later this month and lauded the high RSVP rate of the graduates.

“I’m really excited to bring back the Classes of 2020 and 2021,” Khurana said. “I’m also just amazed that we have a 90 percent RSVP rate, which is incredible given people are all over the world.”

Though Khurana said he and the College originally believed a smaller number of graduates would return for their Commencement, he credited the high response rate in part to efforts by the Harvard Alumni Association and the office of University President Lawrence S. Bacow.

“I think it reflects what this place means to people and what the relationships they formed here mean to them,” Khurana said of the high RSVP rate.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07, whom Khurana described as one of his “heroes,” will speak at the Class of 2022 Class Day on May 25.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing from Mayor Wu. And I still need to get my Class Day speech done,” he quipped.

Khurana also discussed the following topics:

Covid-19 on Campus

In the last week, 105 undergraduates tested positive for Covid-19, with a Harvard positivity rate of 3.14 percent. At the same time, Harvard phased out required Covid-19 testing for on-campus affiliates on May 10, marking the end of one of its last pandemic precautions.

“Covid is not over yet,” Khurana said. “But also, part of the pathway that we are increasingly looking toward and hopefully being informed by is when Covid is endemic to our community.”

Some student groups, such as the newly-formed Harvard Undergraduate Disability Justice club, have raised concerns over loosened Covid rules.

“We want to make sure that our accommodations processes are robust for students,” Khurana said. “We encourage people to reach out to the Accessibility Office so that their concerns can be addressed.”

Overflow Housing

All houses besides Leverett House will be placing students in overflow housing next year due to the influx of the larger-than-usual Class of 2025 and the high number of students who took leaves of absence during the pandemic.

Khurana said he was thankful for the “grace” that students have shown as the College navigated changes to housing due to pandemic factors.

“We want every space to feel welcoming and for students to feel at home,” Khurana said.

The Crimson interviews Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana once per month during the academic year. Click here to submit a question for consideration in our next interview.

—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.

—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.

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