At the Faculty Meeting on April 17, the faculty voted to approve changes beginning with the 2019-20 academic calendar. As a result of this change, in most years the Doctoral Hooding and Commencement ceremonies will take place in late May.
Q: Why is Commencement timing being changed?
A: Currently, MIT’s hooding and Commencement ceremonies take place in early June, about two weeks after final exams end. The shorter summer period impacts the community in several ways. For example, some students need to delay starting employment or internships, and may need to extend housing arrangements for the entire month of June. Some faculty cannot participate in early summer research-related or conference travel. Finally, maintenance and improvements to MIT residences are delayed, as well as start dates for summer programs housed on campus.
Q: When will the change take place and what are the dates going forward?
A: The change will be implemented during the 2019-20 academic year; Hooding and Commencement will take place on May 28 and 29, 2020. Projected dates beyond 2020 are listed on the academic calendar.
Q: How will the timing impact the rest of the academic calendar?
A: Only the spring academic calendar is affected. Independent Activities Period (IAP) will remain unchanged, but spring registration day will take place on the last day (Friday) of IAP. Even though some classes will be taking place, the expectation is that most students will still use this day to meet with their advisors and finalize their spring term registration. Spring classes will start the following Monday, and the last day of classes will be on a Tuesday. The Patriot’s Day four-day weekend in April will be changed to a three-day weekend.
The number of teaching days in IAP and spring remain the same and are not affected by these changes.
For finals week, one exam day will be eliminated but a reading day will be added as the exam schedule will straddle the weekend. That is, there will be two reading days (Wednesday and Thursday), one exam day (Friday), two reading days (Saturday and Sunday), and three exam days (Monday-Wednesday).
As a result of the change, in most years Commencement will take place in late May.
Q: How will the timing impact end-of-term grading and the degree approval process?
A: The time between the end of final exams and the Faculty Committee meetings that approve undergraduate and graduate degrees will be compressed. Department review meetings will need to be scheduled on Tuesday with the CAP and CGP meetings occurring on the Wednesday before Commencement.
The grade deadline for subjects with a final exam has been reduced by a day and will now occur on Friday at 12 pm following finals.
Q: What about hotel availability and rates? The end of May is a busy time in the Boston area with other schools’ graduation ceremonies, alumni reunions, and other events.
A: The Institute Events office, which oversees Commencement, analyzed the potential impact on accommodations and determined that historically, there is sufficient capacity at the end of May in area hotels. Currently, rates in late May are lower than in early June.
Q: How did this decision come about?
A: The idea isn’t new; in 2015-16, the Commencement Committee began exploring the topic of a date change with students (via survey and focus groups), gathering input that included thoughts about holding Commencement on Memorial Day weekend. In fall 2018, Vice Chancellor Ian A. Waitz began an extensive effort to explore a change, enlisting the Registrar’s Office to develop viable scheduling scenarios. After considering dozens of permutations, the Registrar’s Office identified three final options.
Input from the MIT community was gathered throughout the fall and winter months of the 2018-19 academic year in the form of surveys, a student forum, and multiple conversations with student, faculty, and staff stakeholders, including Institute committees and student governance. Based on aggregated feedback from all of these sources, Vice Chancellor Waitz proposed a motion for Option #2 at the Faculty Meeting on March 20, and the faculty voted to approve the motion at the April 17 Faculty Meeting.
Q: What happens next?
A: Given the complexities of any change to the academic calendar, staff in the Office of the Vice Chancellor and the Division of Student Life will continue to work with the community this year to anticipate and address concerns and challenges that may arise. For example, a group of staff is meeting now to develop different accommodation strategies for graduating students and their families who may face conflicts with religious holidays or athletic schedules as a result of the new ceremony date.
Q: What’s the best way to keep updated about the new Commencement schedule and related news?
A: Information about 2020 will be posted on the Commencement website this summer, after this year’s ceremonies on June 6 and 7. The Vice Chancellor’s website will have ongoing updates for the community, as well.
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