Office of the President: Commencement Update

Dear Howard University Community, 

I am pleased to announce that Howard University is officially moving forward with planning in-person commencement activities this year on our campus from May 5-8. The District of Columbia government has officially approved our in-person commencement plan. Both the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 will be invited to participate. At this point, we are confident that an in-person commencement can and will take place in a manner that is meaningful to our graduates and alumni from the last year while also protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff as well as their families.  

Nevertheless, I must stress once again that, in this pandemic environment, all plans are subject to change. If the local government decides to withdraw approval of our plans, then we will revert to a virtual commencement. Our plans are contingent on local conditions continuing to improve as evaluated by increasing vaccination rates and diminishing COVID-19 cases; if those positive developments should reverse course in a significant way, we will revert to a virtual commencement. In the event that inclement weather the day of commencement activities should render outdoor gatherings unsafe, we will cancel those activities the morning they are scheduled to take place and modify them for a virtual platform. 

Our priority has always been to host commencement in-person while ensuring the well-being of our Howard community. Commencement is the culmination of a Howard education and an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of that education before venturing out into the world where it can be put it to use. If there is a window of possibility where commencement could take place in person, on campus and with community, then we were determined to make every effort to make that happen. 

Of course, in-person commencement this year will look very different than it has in years past. All graduates planning to attend will be required to pre-register. Students from the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 will receive registration information on Monday next week from the Office of the Provost. We will observe social distancing requirements, adhere to capacity limitations and abide by other restrictions as necessary. Unfortunately, due to these restrictions, family and friends of students will not be permitted to attend any commencement activities, though the program will be streamed so all individuals who wish, can participate in some capacity. While our current environment is not always conducive to our needs and desires, we can maintain our traditions by adapting them, as best we can, for our present circumstances. 

To see all of the specific restrictions and guidelines and to stay apprised of the latest updates so that you may make arrangements as needed, please refer to the commencement website and look out for future communications. Details regarding school and college specific events (virtual and in-person) will also be available shortly on the commencement website. In the coming weeks, we will strive to determine all of the details the Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 will need to know to ensure their smooth participation in commencement activities. 

Again, I wish to thank you all for your patience. I recognize that the uncertainty surrounding our commencement planning has not been easy for anyone, and I am grateful for your flexibility. 

Excellence in Truth and Service, 

Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA 
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery