Stanford expands eligibility for participation in in-person commencement

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Students that expect to have degrees conferred in spring or summer 2021 are now eligible to participate in the in-person commencement ceremony on June 12 and 13, according to a University email to the senior class on Friday. 

Previously, to be eligible to walk at commencement, students must have conferred or planned to confer their degrees between summer 2020 and spring 2021. Stanford has since expanded eligibility to include those expecting to confer a degree in summer 2021 following calls from student advocates who said that the previous criteria disadvantaged students with fewer resources who may struggle to graduate “on time” or students who elected to take time off because of the pandemic. Students interested in participating in graduation that are not currently eligible can request an exception.

Senior Class President and undergraduate representative to the Board of Trustees David Pantera ’21 worked alongside fellow class presidents Johnathan Bridges ’21, Celine Foster ’21, Virginia Miller ’21 and Jordan Oakes ’21 to advocate for expanded commencement eligibility. They used testimonials from 50 students and survey responses from the senior class to create a presentation for the President’s office, expressing student concerns about the requirements.

As the University promoted opportunities to take time away from school to manage stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning, “it wasn’t right that students who trusted the University and took advantage of those opportunities would then be punished,” Pantera wrote in a statement. 

Pantera added that seniors conferring their degrees over the summer are traditionally allowed to walk in graduation, and that it was “unfair to students who took time away” to be excluded from the ceremony. 

He credits all the students who submitted responses to the survey or testimonials for helping expand eligibility requirements: “It was the overwhelming tide of concern that really caused this change — we simply alerted the administration of it and presented them with the suggestions.”

According to Pantera, the next priority for the class presidents is increasing access to graduation for international students, with a particular focus on vaccine requirements. 

The University is currently requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all students that attend. Students and guests arriving from out of state must be fully vaccinated pursuant to California’s health orders, according to the University’s commencement website.

“It is inequitable for the University to expect international students and their families to receive vaccines to attend commencement,” he wrote, adding that not every country has a vaccine supply or distribution infrastructure comparable to the United States.

Despite programs like the COVAX initiative focused on increasing equitable access to vaccines, experts have voiced concerns about slow and inequitable vaccine rollout, especially in developing nations. 

The University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Kaushikee Nayudu '24 is a beat reporter covering mental health & disability-related issues for The Daily. She is from California and enjoys cooking and making Spotify playlists in her free time. Contact her at knayudu ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.
Anuka Mohanpuhr ‘24 is a beat reporter who grew up in the Bay Area. She’s interested in studying Economics and Statistics. Contact the news section at news 'at' stanford.edu.