Rice updates plans for May commencement ceremonies

Rice Stadium will serve as this year's polling location for the Rice precinct. (Photo by Brandon Martin)

President David Leebron, Provost Reginald DesRoches, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Seiichi Matsuda sent the following message to the Rice community April 12 regarding updates to Rice's 2021 commencement plans:

We are writing with an update about our plans for May commencement ceremonies.

In early March, we announced that all ceremonies would be held in person, but modified with restrictions that prohibited guest attendance.

Since we made that decision, the situation surrounding COVID-19 in our community has shifted considerably. Vaccinations have been made available to all adults in the Rice community who want them, and while we are still gathering information on vaccine utilization, we know that a majority of Rice students have chosen to vaccinate. Additionally, the location of our vaccination hub has shifted from Rice Stadium to the Rice BioScience Research Collaborative, providing the university with another option for hosting commencement activities. At the same time, positivity rates on our campus remain low, and the number of new cases in the Greater Houston area is trending lower.

As such, we are pleased to announce that we are modifying the format of our commencement ceremonies to permit a limited number of guests to attend. Key changes include the following:

  • All commencement ceremonies will be held in historic Rice Stadium. Rain or shine, ceremonies will happen outside in the stadium, so please plan accordingly.
  • The schedule of the undergraduate student ceremonies has not changed. Class of 2021 commencement will be held on Friday night, May 14, and Class of 2020 commencement will be held on Saturday night, May 15.
  • The doctoral and advanced degree convocations for both 2020 and 2021 will join together into a single Saturday morning commencement. This event will include all graduate students (including Bachelor of Architecture and Artist Diploma students) except those earning the MBA, who will instead participate in the Jones Graduate School of Business commencement ceremony on Friday morning. Doctoral hooding will be done either in departmental or school receptions, or in less formal individual ceremonies.
  • The Saturday morning doctoral and advanced degree commencement ceremony will include commencement speaker Nicholas Kristof and be livestreamed for all audiences, but only advanced degree and Ph.D. candidates and their guests may attend in person.
  • Each commencement ceremony will be livestreamed for remote viewing by anyone who cannot attend in person.
  • At each commencement ceremony, up to four (4) guests will be permitted for each graduate. Each graduating student will receive four guest tickets for the ceremony they are participating in, which will be electronically distributed to students approximately one (1) week prior to commencement. All guests who attend commencement must abide by university safety policies, including strict rules on seating location and mask usage compliance. While the university is pleased to provide the opportunity for loved ones to celebrate commencement in person with their graduate, adherence to safety protocols is nonnegotiable and will be strictly enforced.
  • Faculty (other than deans and college magisters) will generally not be part of the stage party; faculty and staff are welcome to take appropriately distanced seats if they are available on the periphery of stadium seating (outside of the space designated for students’ families). Faculty who would like to attend a commencement ceremony should email commencement@rice.edu for more information.
  • Specific details about the programs for each event are still being worked out and will be communicated to graduates as needed.

Please note that due to the changes made in this announcement, we are extending the RSVP deadline for Class of 2020 students to Friday, April 23. Please click here if you intend to participate.

Updates about the ceremony will be posted at commencement.rice.edu, so please check there regularly as you plan. Questions can also be directed to commencement@rice.edu.

We hope that you all are as excited as we are to celebrate our graduates.