Commencement 2021: Guidelines for DLCs

Commencement 2021: Guidelines for DLCs

Paramount in planning is protecting public health and safety and adhering to state, city, and Institute policies. Although uncertainty abounds and variables such as the variants and vaccine supply limitations may have an impact, under the terms of the updated events, gatherings, and campus spaces policy that was announced on April 15, it will be possible to offer two kinds of in-person opportunities for graduating students:

  1. Photos on Killian Court
  2. Tented gatherings for groups in other outdoor spaces

Note: these guidelines for DLC-organized, faculty-led, in-person Commencement gatherings offer an academic exception to the moratorium on events in the spring semester of 2021.

Participants and procedures


Updated May 6

  • Gathering participants will be graduating students and the faculty and staff who are part of the event program or organization, all of whom must be Covid Pass users. No guests (even those who are Covid Pass users) are permitted to attend, nor should students be encouraged to travel to Cambridge for these gatherings.
  • All graduates in the greater Boston area who do not have access to campus spaces will be granted a One Time Access pass to use between May 20–28, on the day of their outdoor activity. One Time Access will allow graduates to visit to acknowledge campus requirements and complete a health attestation on the day of their event; Covid testing is not required.
  • Departments also may arrange one-day access for faculty and staff who need to be present at the event.
  • The participant count for each gathering—which must include any department staff in attendance—must comply with current state, city, and Institute policies, all of which are subject to change.


  • The time period for photos or gatherings will be from Thursday, May 20 (last day of classes) through Friday, May 28. The final reservation slot will be 6 pm on May 28.
  • All reservations will be scheduled to take place during the hours of 10 am – 7 pm.
  • Killian Court photo reservations will be scheduled in 60-minute increments.
  • Tent gatherings will be scheduled to include set-up and break-down time, with a maximum reservation period of 2 hours. Appropriate set-up and break-down time will be assessed for each gathering and exact timing will be provided when Institute Events confirms your reservation.
  • Space requests will be reviewed and confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend submitting your space request as soon as possible and no later than May 10.
  • Atlas event registrations must be received 10 business days ahead of the date to accommodate the review procedure.
  • No rain dates will be permitted.


  • Tent gathering organizers must submit a request for space and submit an Atlas event registration once the space request has been approved. (It is not necessary to register photo opportunities.)
  • Institute Events will review registrations, coordinate reservations for the designated spaces, and forward registrations that meet the requirements for consideration by the Covid Monitoring Team.
  • All reservations and arrangements are subject to reassessment and change at the discretion of the Covid Monitoring Team.
  • Reservations and registrations may be made by following the usual procedures: department staff may submit the registration and the event host (individual responsible for policy compliance) must be a faculty member or other department signatory.
  • Event organizers and hosts will be responsible for ensuring their participants’ compliance with all current policies and for communicating changes, should it become necessary to adjust capacity or protocols.

Guidelines for photo opportunities

Updated May 6

  • Killian Court platform pictures of individuals must be taken quickly, i.e., 30 seconds, or 50 people per half hour, etc.
  • Individual graduates (who are spaced 6 feet from others) may remove their masks when their pictures are being taken.
  • Group photos with masks are permitted.
  • Group photos without masks are permitted if taken in less than 1 minute. We recommend assembling the group before participants BRIEFLY remove their masks. If you can space individuals 6 feet apart, the time limit does not apply.
  • Registered pods may take unmasked group photos.
  • Note: the Killian Court photo platform is suitable for individual or small group photos only. Larger groups should plan to stand in front of the platform or in another location in the court.

Other considerations

  • Gatherings may not include food and/or beverages, and participants must follow city, state, and Institute public health policies, such as wearing well-fitted face coverings and remaining socially distanced.
  • Academic regalia: academic regalia should not be considered critical to these gatherings, as there is no mechanism for rental regalia this season. However, if students in your area wish to wear a cap and gown, they (and faculty who happen to be MIT alumni) may purchase keepsake regalia via the vendor’s webform. Faculty who graduated from other institutions may be able to purchase regalia from Oak Hall (contact: Peg Mead). All regalia will be shipped directly to purchaser—and shipping may take several weeks, so orders should be placed ASAP.
  • Gathering organizers are responsible for making arrangements for ASL interpretation if accommodation is requested. The ASL interpreter would need to be a current Covid Pass user.
  • Professional photographers and videographers who are not Covid Pass users would not be permitted on campus.
  • Lists of anticipated graduates can be obtained from department academic offices or the Registrar’s Office.

About the spaces

Photo platform on Killian Court

Killian Court will have a platform with a unique, branded MIT feature with which to pose, with the Building 10 columns seen behind. Individuals may access the court to take spontaneous, unscheduled photos, too, although they will be asked to disperse if necessary by those who have the space reserved.

Tents for gathering in designated outdoor spaces

  • Open-sided tents offer cover in most weather conditions.
  • Open-sided tents are considered outdoor spaces, thus outdoor guidelines apply. This means participants must be masked unless they can maintain 6 feet between them.
  • If furniture such as chairs and lecterns are required, it will be necessary to follow current Covid set-up (meaning, chairs and tables will be spaced 6 feet apart) and cleaning guidelines. Organizers should be aware that any use of furniture or equipment may reduce the timeframe for a gathering, as extra time would be required for set-up and cleaning. Minimal tables and chairs will be provided; organizers will be responsible to all arrangements for set-up and removal of any additional furniture and equipment.
  • Tent locations are Saxon Court (capacity 150) and Eastman Court (capacity 100).

Help and questions

Contact Institute Events




Effective May 6, 2021, based on current information. Note that changing policies may affect these guidelines.

  • Reminder, handshakes and hugs are not permitted this season.
  • If you are distributing an item (a folio, a gift), it must be available for pick-up, rather than handed off from one person to another.

“Event space request” vs “event registration”

These guidelines refer to requesting space and to event registration—what is the difference?

The MIT event registration process takes place in Atlas and is a regular part of event planning on campus (more detail). Registration requires the organizer to have secured event space in order to complete the form, so if you are the organizer of an in-person Commencement 2021 gathering, please submit your space request FIRST and await approval. With that confirmation, you may then complete the Atlas digital events application (click the blue Register New Event button). Remember to identify and secure the agreement of a faculty host prior to beginning the event registration process. Questions? Please contact us.

If your group would like to take photos on Killian Court at a specific time, you’ll want to submit a space request for one of the reservable areas. Institute Events manages that scheduling and will follow up to confirm with you. Photo reservations do NOT require event registration in Atlas.