I am having some back-and-forth with college officials about their decision to have “no virtual commencement” in June. (Readers may be surprised to discover how rarely I reach out to Williams. I save my capital for the really important issues! Indeed, this debate generated my first e-mail to Maud since her induction.) One official (not Maud!) notes that, among seniors:

There was almost no support for a virtual Commencement.

The people who run Williams are smart and experienced, which is why I agree with 99% of their decisions! (But such agreement makes for boring reading, which is why you see so little here.) But, on this topic, they are very, very wrong. Seniors and their families want something on June 7. But you don’t have to believe me! Just send this e-mail to the 500 seniors (and, separately, to their parents).

To the members of the class of 2020 and their parents:

As discussed, Williams is committed to celebrating your achievements in person, as soon as we are allowed to by Massachusetts state officials to do so. In the meantime, we are exploring options for June 7th. There are three possibilities:

1) No virtual events.

2) A video broadcast featuring speeches, performances and other celebrations. This would be viewable by all via the College’s Youtube channel.

3) A “Zoom Commencement” which would involve both joint broadcasts but also grouping students and, separately, families into Zoom breakout rooms for intimate conversations and visits from favorite faculty and staff.

If it is really true that there is “almost no support for a virtual Commencement,” then option 1) will win in a landslide. It is an empirical question.

My prediction is that at least 200 students (and the parents of at least half the students) would vote for option 3.

Would we all agree that, if 200 students/families wanted a Zoom Commencement, Williams should host one? Students who don’t want to participate don’t have to! Either way, we all agree that the College should/will host an in-person event in 2021.

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