“We were all profoundly disappointed that we were unable to organize an event sooner given the public-health restrictions put in place across New Jersey and the impact of the pandemic on our campus and our staff,” University spokesman Ben Chang said in a statement. “With increasing rates of vaccinations and the lifting of social-distancing requirements, the University feels confident [it] will be able to welcome back the undergraduate Class of 2020, grad alumni, and families for the Commencement celebration next spring.”
Class members were surveyed about whether they would attend a belated Commencement and how many guests they would like to bring, Chang told The Daily Princetonian in June. Responses were collected throughout July and were still being compiled by University Advancement in mid-August, according to spokesman Michael Hotchkiss.
Juston Forte ’20, alumni class president, said he and the other class officers had advocated for an in-person ceremony since graduating. Forte said he felt the class had been forgotten when a ceremony expected for 2021 didn’t take place. News of the 2022 ceremony gave the class hope and excitement, Forte added.
“We were sent home from campus with very little warning in March 2020, and for most of us, we didn’t get to see a lot of people that we wanted to say goodbye to or really have … final memories,” Forte said. “So there’s a lot of sentiment from the class to get that experience and to be able to finally see everyone.”
For some, the moment has passed and cannot be rekindled. Alden Hunt ’20, who lives in Texas, said he does not plan to attend the ceremony because it would be inconvenient to travel. Commencement marks the end of college and the start of the next chapter of your life, Hunt said, and with the class two years removed from Princeton, “it’s kind of weird to try to do it again.”
But for others, the ceremony will finally offer closure. Commencement “is not just for members of 2020, it’s also for their families,” Forte said. “I think that a lot of family members are really invested in seeing that experience.”