Question: Is Williams holding a “virtual commencement” in 9 days?

First answer: No! A college official told me so. The Record reported the same. I can’t find a clear cut statement to this effect on the College’s website, but this noting the lack of a “virtual ceremony in June” comes close. Key word searches only really turn up references to the “virtual graduation ceremony” being held by Africana Studies.

Second answer: Yes! Williams is obviously having a virtual commencement. Just look:

A number of academic departments and programs are hosting their own virtual events and celebrations throughout May and June. Students will be contacted directly with details by the event organizers.

And here’s a schedule of Williams-wide virtual events for Saturday, June 6:

1 p.m. Music Department Senior Recital
2 p.m. Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony
3 p.m. Sigma Xi Induction Ceremony
4 p.m. Senior Athlete Celebration
5 p.m. Raising Our Gaze: an offering from the Williams College Chaplains Office featuring student voices and honoring our seniors

Williams is even providing social media advice to help with the big day.

Instagram Effects
When creating a new story on Instagram, swipe the Effects selecter all the way to the left until you get to “Browse Effects.” Search for “Williams2020” to find the Williams graduation effects.

If you do most of the things associated with a Commencement, most of the stuff that you did last year (that can be done on the web), then, call it whatever you want, you are holding a virtual commencement/graduation/celebration/whatever.

Others disagree!

I would argue that it isn’t a commencement because it lacks all ceremony; no reading of names, no marshall, no singing.

Is a Commencement a Commencement if your name isn’t read? Middlebury thinks so! I could probably find a dozen or more examples. And don’t forget this promise:

However, we can’t let your graduation day go by without some fanfare. Look for an email at 10 am (EST) from the college on June 7 for a special celebration of YOU, the Class of 2020!

You can be sure that his will include some singing, and almost certainly an appearance by College Marshall Jay Thoman ’82.

But the words that I or others write on EphBlog don’t matter much. What matters is whether or not other organizations refer to the events of June 6/7 as a “virtual commencement.” The Boston Globe is unlikely to provide any coverage, but iBerkshires and the Berkshire Eagle will probably have an article, if only something which parrots the College’s press release. What matters is if future historians refer to the events as a virtual commencement.

I bet they will. What do you predict?

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