Frequently Asked Questions for Commencement 2021

Covid Testing Requirements/Eligibility to Participate in Person

  1. Who is eligible to participate in Commencement?

    We are thrilled to be able to provide an in-person Commencement for those undergraduate students in the Class of 2021 who qualify to participate. Due to public health limitations, we cannot welcome the entire Penn community to this year’s celebration. For this year’s ceremony, Class of 2021 academically eligible seniors who have been part of our Penn Cares asymptomatic screening testing protocol this semester, including those undergraduates with an expected graduation term of August 2021 or December 2021, and who have not had housing or access to campus revoked because of a Campus Compact violation, will be invited to participate. 

    We are now offering academically eligible seniors, with an expected graduation term of May 2021, who have not been part of the Penn Cares screening testing protocol this semester the opportunity to become eligible to participate if they can meet the following conditions: 1) undergo screening testing on campus at least weekly beginning the week of April 5; 2) undergo screening testing twice per week starting May 3. If you are in West Philadelphia, you must start or continue testing twice per week starting April 5.

    Students should schedule their first and subsequent tests on the COVID Scheduler. Information on the Penn Cares testing program can be found on the Penn COVID-19 Response website.

    We regret that we are not able to hold any in-person ceremonies for the Class of 2021 of our graduate and professional programs.

    We regret that family or friends will not be able to be accommodated at Franklin Field.

    We encourage the Penn community to watch the Commencement ceremony by live webcast on the Commencement website. A recording on the website will be available after the ceremony.

  2. I have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been following the Penn Cares guidance not to screen test for 90 days. May I still attend Commencement?

    If you have a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, you will still be eligible if you resume and comply with the testing protocol after your 90-day period has lapsed.  If your expected 90-day period will not have expired in time for Commencement, you will be cleared to participate unless you receive a red pass for non-compliance or symptoms.

  3. What is the process to enter into the testing requirement so I can participate in Commencement?

    You should schedule your first and subsequent screening tests immediately on the COVID Scheduler. More complete information on the Penn Cares screening testing program can be found on the Penn COVID-19 Response website

  4. Can seniors living outside of the 19104 zip code, especially international students, participate in Commencement? If so, how?

    We do not recommend traveling to Philadelphia only for this purpose.

    We are now offering academically eligible seniors who have not been part of the Penn Cares screening testing program the opportunity to become eligible to participate in Commencement if they can meet the following conditions: 1) undergo screening testing on campus at least weekly beginning the week of April 5; 2) undergo screening testing twice per week starting May 3. If you are on campus or in West Philadelphia, you must start or continue testing twice per week starting April 5.

    Students should schedule their first and subsequent tests on the COVID Scheduler. Information on the Penn Cares testing program can be found on the Penn COVID-19 Response website.

  5. If a student from outside of the local zip code who is not enrolled in the regular Penn Cares testing strategy can prove they are vaccinated, can they participate?

    While vaccines protect individuals from developing serious illness, it remains unknown whether vaccination will prevent them from transmitting the virus should they be exposed. Vaccination status is not one of the criteria for eligibility to participate in Commencement.

  6. As a graduating senior who is living in the region close to Penn, can I participate if I can provide a negative test and/or prove that I have been vaccinated? Do I need to drive to Penn weekly to participate in the screening testing program?

    While vaccines protect individuals from developing serious illness, it remains unknown whether vaccination will prevent them from transmitting the virus should they be exposed. Vaccination status is not one of the criteria for eligibility to participate in Commencement.

    We are now offering academically eligible seniors who have not been part of the Penn Cares screening testing program the opportunity to become eligible to participate in Commencement if they can meet the following conditions: 1) undergo screening testing on campus at least weekly beginning the week of April 5; 2) undergo screening testing twice per week starting May 3. If you are in West Philadelphia, you must start or continue testing twice per week starting April 5.

    Students should schedule their first and subsequent tests on the COVID Scheduler. Information on the Penn Cares testing program can be found on the Penn COVID-19 Response website.

     

  7. I completed my academic course work in August 2020 or December 2020 and have not yet graduated, and I am not participating in the Penn Cares COVID testing program. What do I need to do to be able to participate in Commencement?

    Undergraduates with an expected graduation term of Summer 2020 or Fall 2020 are academically eligible for 2021 Commencement.

    You must also participate in the screening testing as follows: 1) undergo screening testing on campus at least weekly beginning the week of April 5; 2) undergo screening testing twice per week starting May 3. If you are in West Philadelphia, you must start or continue testing twice per week starting April 5.

    Students should schedule their first and subsequent tests on the COVID Scheduler. Information on the Penn Cares testing program can be found on the Penn COVID-19 Response website.

  8. Is the Class of 2020 able to participate in person in this Commencement ceremony? If not, why not?

    With members of the Class of 2020 now literally spread across the country and around the globe, reconvening on campus this year is simply not possible.  We remain committed to finding the best in-person opportunity to appropriately recognize and celebrate our 2020 graduates. To see the message from President Gutmann, Provost Pritchett and Executive Vice President Carnaroli to the Class of 2020, click here: https://commencement.upenn.edu/grad2020

  9. If I am scheduled to complete my academic course work in August 2021 or December 2021, can I participate in the May 2021 commencement?

    The University will allow those undergraduates with both 1) an expected graduation term of August 2021 or December 2021, and 2) consistent participation and testing in the Penn Cares program throughout the 2021 spring semester, to be eligible to participate in the May 17, 2021 Commencement ceremony. Those undergraduate seniors who are not already a current and regular participant in COVID testing through Penn Cares will be able to participate in the May 2022 Commencement.  Students who meet the two criteria and would like to participate in the 2021 Commencement ceremony should submit a request to covidresource@upenn.edu.

  10. How do I register to participate in the Commencement ceremony?

    Eligible seniors will receive an email invitation by Friday, April 2 in their upenn.edu email account with a link to register for Commencement.

  11. If family or parents are proven to be vaccinated, why can’t they safely attend the ceremony?

    While vaccines protect individuals from developing serious illness, it remains unknown whether vaccination will prevent them from transmitting the virus should they be exposed. Vaccination status is not one of the criteria for eligibility to participate in Commencement.

  12. I am a highly aided student who would like to return to campus to participate in Commencement but need financial assistance for housing. What support is available to me?

    There are a limited number of rooms available in Sansom Place East for highly aided graduating seniors who do not have other Commencement housing options available to them. To be eligible, students must currently be living outside of Philadelphia. Eligible students will receive financial support for these housing expenses. Housing is available starting April 17. In order to comply with testing guidelines, students must arrive to campus no later than May 2. Please refer to the Commencement FAQs to learn more about testing and eligibility to participate in commencement.

    To request Commencement housing, please complete this application on MyHomeAtPenn by April 25 at 11:59 p.m. The application will open on April 5.  Student Registration & Financial Services will review all requests with Residential Services and reply to you within five business days.

  13. Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

    Students, their families, and other members of the University community who have additional questions not answered on this site may contact the COVID Resource Center at (215) 573-7096 or covidresource@upenn.edu.

Capacity of Franklin Field

  1. Franklin Field can hold more than 60,000 people, but Penn is not allowing family or guests to attend the ceremony - even if they practice social distancing. Why?

    The University is dedicated to including as many students as possible in this year’s Commencement ceremony while making public health and safety our highest priority. Guidance from the University’s public health experts, and our partners in Penn Medicine and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, agree on the University’s public health protocols for Commencement.

  2. The city of Philadelphia has made public their large event guidelines, which states that a venue can host 30 percent of its full capacity. For Franklin Field that is 10,000. If there are 2,400 seniors, can there be 7,600 friends or families in the stands?

    The University is dedicated to including as many students as possible in this year’s Commencement ceremony while following the health guidance from our partners in Penn Medicine and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. At the time of the decision, the public health status of the pandemic on May 17 in Philadelphia is unknown. The concern for physical distancing in Franklin Field for those who attend, and the abundant concern for the surrounding Philadelphia community, has led the University to allow only graduating seniors to participate.

The Details of the Ceremony

  1. Since it is a smaller ceremony, are students now walking across the stage and being handed their diplomas?

    We will follow our usual practice for the ceremony. It does not include the calling of names and giving of diplomas, which is due to Penn’s class size each year. The ceremony will be conducted with respect to the University’s public health guidance requirements to maintain physical distance of six feet and the wearing of masks.

  2. Will there be a procession down Locust Walk to Franklin Field?

    Unfortunately, we are not able to hold the traditional procession of graduates down Locust Walk to Franklin Field. This is due to public health guidance of gatherings of large numbers of people and the need for physical distancing.

Participating in Commencement Virtually

  1. Will the event be webcast live or recorded to view later?

    Yes, we encourage the Penn community to watch the Commencement ceremony via live webcast on the Commencement website. A recording will be available after the ceremony for those who are unable to participate live for any reason.

  2. Would Penn endorse allowing ceremonies to take place in other cities, such as pop-up ceremonies, where there is a high concentration of students, to gather in person and watch the webcast?

    Given the geographic reach of our worldwide community and the varying restrictions and guidelines currently in place, it is not possible for the University to support regional ceremonies.

  3. Does my professional school from which I am graduating have any special plans or arrangements?

    Penn’s graduate and professional schools have no plans to conduct in-person graduation ceremonies. Graduates of professional schools should contact their schools directly for their alternate plans to celebrate their students.

Obtaining Commencement Regalia

All Graduates, even those picking up their regalia, are strongly encouraged to visit Campus Express for information on graduation items such as diploma frames, announcements and Penn branded gift items, benefits to Penn Alumni, computer discounts, class logos and much more.

  1. I am planning to participate in Commencement, when and where can I pick up my regalia?

    Academic regalia is required for degree candidates who are participating in the in-person Commencement ceremony. Undergraduates participating in the in-person Commencement ceremony should pick up their regalia on the second floor of the Penn Bookstore between March 22 and May 1, 2021.

  2. I am not planning to participate in the ceremony on campus but would like to purchase regalia as a commemorative keepsake. What is the process?

    Undergraduates who are not planning to participate in the ceremony but would still like to purchase regalia should pick up their regalia on the second floor of the Penn Bookstore between March 22 and May 1, 2021, or they may order their Regalia and have it shipped to them through Campus Express starting March 15. Orders should be placed no later than April 23 for arrival by Commencement.

  3. I am a master’s student who wishes to have their regalia as a commemorative keepsake even if there is not an in-person ceremony. What is the process?

    Master’s Degree candidates may pick up their regalia at the Penn Bookstore between March 22 and May 1, 2021 or order their regalia and have it shipped to them through Campus Express starting March 15. Orders should be placed no later than April 23 for arrival by Commencement.  

  4. I am a doctoral student who wishes to have their regalia as a commemorative keepsake even if there is not an in-person ceremony. What is the process?

    The majority of Doctoral Candidates choose to purchase traditional regalia which includes a black gown, hood in the appropriate school colors, mortar board cap, and tassel. Traditional regalia can be purchased through Campus Express. Orders should be placed no later than April 23 for arrival by Commencement.  Doctoral candidates who plan to frequently participate in academic ceremonies requiring regalia may choose to purchase Custom Regalia. This regalia is designed distinctively in Penn’s red and blue coloring rather than in the traditional black. Graduates choosing to purchase Custom Regalia can order on-line through Campus Express and must place their orders no later than April 1, 2021 to receive their regalia by Commencement.

Commencement and Shavuot

  1. How is the University accommodating students who observe Shavuot?

    We are aware that Commencement this year overlaps with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. We are working with our observant seniors attending the in-person ceremony to provide accommodations to ensure they are able to participate as they choose.

  2. How will I enter the ceremony?

    Seniors who are observing Shavuot and attending the in-person ceremony must register for accommodations in advance through this form, in addition to registering for the ceremony per the email on April 2. Students with these accommodations will enter Franklin Field through a designated entrance gate at a specific time where they will be required to complete the PennOpen Pass attestation verbally as well as confirm their Penn ID verbally.

  3. Are there accommodations for testing over Shabbat on Commencement weekend?

    Students participating in the in-person ceremony must be enrolled in the Penn Cares screening testing protocol. Testing can be scheduled to avoid Shabbat by emailing covidresource@upenn.edu.

  4. What will the use of technology be like at the ceremony?

    The ceremony will be recorded for the webcast, which involve videographers filming the stage as well as some general audience shots. There will be microphones on the stage and sound equipment throughout Franklin Field.

  5. Will there be photography at the ceremony?

    There will be photographers documenting the ceremony, however it will be passive and generally photos of the stage or general audience shots and not individual student photographs.

  6. I am a senior living in College Housing and will need move-out accommodations.

    Details about the move-out process for students living on campus will be released in the coming weeks, including information about how to request an accommodation. Visit https://residential-services.business-services.upenn.edu/moving-info for more information.

  7. What religious services will be offered during this time?

    Information about religious services can be found on Penn Hillel’s website.

  8. Who can I contact with more questions?

    Contact Senior Associate Chaplain Steve Kocher at skocher@upenn.edu.