We are currently exploring multiple possibilities for celebrating Occidental’s 139th Commencement and the Class of 2021 while continuing to follow guidance from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Dear Seniors,

As promised, I write to update you on Oxy’s plans for Commencement this year. Almost half of you replied to the recent survey we sent. We greatly appreciate your responses and comments, which have been helpful in our planning. As of today, we have not finalized our plans for your Commencement celebration and we have heard nothing new from L.A. County as to our ability to hold such a large-scale event. Still, your comments in the survey made it clear how important this moment is for you and that you want input into the decision-making as to what form your 2021 graduation takes. For that reason, we would like to invite all seniors to join me and other senior leaders on Tuesday, March 2 at 6 p.m. for a town hall, where we would like to share the survey results, discuss options we are exploring and hear your feedback firsthand. We know how hard you have worked to earn your Oxy degree, and we want you to be part of this process.

In advance of the town hall, I want to share some of the feedback we heard from you as well as some of the key issues factoring into our thinking.

What we heard from you. We heard that walking across the stage and hearing your name is important. Some of you would be satisfied with a stripped down, student-only ceremony that is live streamed to families. Others talked about the desire to be in person with the friends and family that supported you along the way, and suggested it is better to wait until a more conventional Commencement is possible. Many of you provided specific suggestions and ideas for virtual and in-person options. 

Factors that guide us. Please know that we want nothing more than to have you all on campus for Commencement and to celebrate you properly in person. Two factors, however, make this  extremely challenging, if not impossible, to accomplish. For one, the current L.A. county health and safety guidelines that we must adhere to do not permit us to plan an event of such scale--even if it is outdoors, masked and socially distanced. With the increasing availability of vaccines and declining cases, that guidance could potentially change before May 16--but even if it did, it wouldn't provide us with the necessary lead time to plan and execute an event of that size. In addition, we estimate that 55% of seniors are currently living in the greater L.A. area. That means almost 200 of you would have to make last-minute travel arrangements for yourselves and possibly family members. Beyond the logistical challenges, this raises an important equity issue given that you are spread out across the country, and internationally as well.  

Despite the challenging circumstances, I can assure you that the Oxy administration is committed to working with you and to doing everything we can to make your Commencement special. I hope you can join us Tuesday to be part of this important discussion.

Very best,
President Elam

Contact Commencement
Office of the President