February 21, 2021

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Cornell, Honor Your Commencement Promise

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To the Editor:

I am writing to respectfully urge Cornell to reconsider the recent changes to the Class of 2020’s commencement plan. On Feb. 17, President Martha Pollack announced that an in-person commencement, with family and friends, will not be safe by the proposed June date. I absolutely agree; the spread of the coronavirus precludes such gatherings — for now. However, the University’s solution, to wrap our commencement into the virtual reunion and have, “… a special, in-person alumni event for the Class of 2020 whenever we are again able to gather, without restrictions, in Ithaca” seems a rather glaring step back from the promise made to us last year. 

“We are not yet able to announce a date or location, as that will very much be determined by the progression of the current public health crisis,” President Pollack said in March 2020. “But I can say with certainty that your celebration will occur. It will take place in Ithaca. All of our graduates and their families will be invited. And we will find creative ways for those who are unable to attend in person to be able to fully participate virtually.”  

I do not doubt the difficulty of the decision the commencement planners and the administration faced when choosing to walk back from this statement. They are in an impossible situation, as are many of us who have been living with the impossible for over a year. But it seems breaking a promise so strongly made, so absolutely stated and so definitively defined would irreparably damage our class’s relationship with Cornell. We want to celebrate with our family and friends on The Hill — a place that has defined years of our young lives and is for many of us a home. The Class of 2020 has waited a year for this opportunity, and I believe many of us would choose to wait longer to be able to realize the full commencement experience. 

Matthew Ferraro ’20