Commencement Changes

Here, you can find updated information on Commencement Changes beginning in 2020. The UA, along with other student leaders, has been actively discussing potential issues and appropriate solutions with the Chancellor’s office.

Please give us your feedback here.

“One-MIT+Schools” Proposal

The current proposal for Commencement changes, the “One-MIT+Schools” proposal would split Commencement into two distinct periods.

‘One-MIT’ Ceremony:

  • Open to all MIT graduates and their guests

  • Take place in Killian Court on Friday morning

  • Planned duration of no more than 90 minutes

  • Would include the following elements:

    • Commencement speaker, President, etc.

    • Degree conferral en masse

    • Smaller procession

‘Schools’ Ceremony:

  • Open to School or Department graduates and their guests

    • School vs Department split would likely be dependent upon Department size

  • Take place at individual locations, other than Killian Court on Friday afternoon

  • Recognize and celebrate individual graduates

Decision Timeline

  • July 16th: Gayle Gallagher (Executive Officer for Commencement; Institute Events) emails Commencement Committee with “One-MIT+Schools” proposal

    • Chancellor Barnhart also emails the student representatives on the Commencement Committee to discuss the proposal

  • July 23rd: UA President responds back on behalf of the student representatives

  • July 31st: Phone call between Chancellor, Institute Events, UA, 2020 Class Council

  • August 1st: Chancellor responds via email reflecting on phone call, sharing photos of students leaving degree conferral early

  • August 2nd: UA and 2020 Class Council respond with clarifying questions and a potential solution

  • August 10th: Chancellor responds back with clarification that Academic Council has signed off on “One MIT+Schools” version 

Problem Space

The “One-MIT+Schools” proposal would attenuate many of the issues the Institute has has in the past few years. These issues include:

  • Excessive ceremony length, which has lead to:

    • Health hazards of guests caused by extreme heat

  • Lack of a suitable backup indoor location

    • School or Department-specific ceremonies could easily (or would be original planned to) occur indoors, while accommodating all graduates and their guests

The “One-MIT+Schools” proposal also raises concerns, specifically within the Undergraduate community:

  • Inability to celebrate the individual degree conferral of fellow undergrads

    • In contrast to graduate students, undergraduates often feel connected to their peers through extracurricular activities (i.e. living group, clubs, sports teams, etc.), as opposed to School or Department

Proposed Alternate Solutions

Among other solutions, student stakeholders have been considering alternate solutions to the above proposal, to better understand the problem:

A OneMIT ceremony (UG + G) in the morning (as outlined in the earlier proposal), followed by simultaneous but separate UG and G degree conferral. UG occurs in one location; G occurs by School/Department.

  • Time/mass exodus: Since we have ~1000 UG and ~1100 G, the initially two hour long diploma distribution is now cut into half.

    • Pros: Keeps UG students together, as is reflective of our collective academic and social experience and desire to celebrate all of our classmates graduating. Reduces time significantly, so that it's much more reasonable to expect that everyone stays for all of degree conferral. Resolves edge case of UG students who are double majors: roughly 150 seniors are enrolled in a second major (I'm one!), so around ~13% of UG could be affected by initial proposal. Resolves edge case of UG joint majors across Schools: roughly 75 seniors (6-7, 6-14, 21E, 21S, 18-C, eventually 6-9, 11-6 and not including 2A concentrations) for another ~7% of the class. Yes, these students have a primary major/advisor but 20% of each class will have a considerably different/unaccounted for experience.

      • Is it reasonable to enforce that everyone stay for all of degree conferral now that this ceremony is only an hour long (barring emergencies)?

      • Is it accurate to say that the G experience is largely defined by their school/department/lab? I'm operating under this assumption, so please correct me if this is inaccurate.

    • Cons: Does not achieve the proposal's time reduction. Does not resolve edge case of students who are receiving a UG and G diploma. How many of these students are there?

      • If we were to split by School with UG + G (as in the initial proposal), what would the numbers look like? My guess is that there would be a fairly disproportionate number of students in certain schools/departments versus others, so we can't have equal times for everyone in either proposal.

  • Equity: All names are announced as is done now. President Reif does not hand out degrees to any graduate.

    • Pros: Preserves most of MIT tradition, namely calling graduate names at an exceptional pace in front of all. Resolves UG inequity amongst schools/departments, i.e. the vastly different experience for a School of Engineering vs. SHASS student. Resolves inequity in who hands out degrees in UG v. G.

    • Cons: Requires greater discussion on who exactly should hand out degrees.

  • Space/weather: UG occurs in Killian Court, G occurs in various locations across campus, divided by School/Department.

    • Pros: Easier for families to see their student graduate. Weather issues mitigated significantly since less time spent outside. Strict separation of OneMIT ceremony and degree conferral allows family members with medical issues to choose to attend degree conferral only, if desired. Spaces issues mitigated significantly since there are fewer graduates in one place.

      • Would students be allowed to invite more guests to the live ceremony? At worst, the expectations for number of guests would stay the same -- is that correct?

      • In the proposal, how many expected attendees are there for each School? Where is there space (outside of Killian) to hold all of the School of Engineering? Either way, there is still location inequity with Rockwell vs. other choices.

    • Cons: These problems still exist in some (lessened) capacity.

      • How much do we value UG staying together vs. number of invited guests vs. risk of uncomfortable weather? I suspect that the surveys may shed some light, but value comparison is difficult to understand from a survey.

The UA encourages you to voice your opinion on the above issue here.