Student Life

Commencement guest policy updated

No testing on site at Commencement

Commencement guests must now show proof of a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before arrival on campus or a rapid antigen home test taken 24 hours in advance of campus arrival. This update comes after a COVID-19 requirement update sent yesterday sparked discussion on Reddit and the RPI parent Facebook group. Previously, only PCR tests taken up to 48 hours before Commencement were permitted.

“Due to the rise of COVID-19 cases, we are asking for pre-arrival testing 48 hours in advance. Guests should bring proof of a negative PCR test with them,” stated an Institute email yesterday. Today, Director of Media Relations and Communications Deanna Cohen emailed The Polytechnic, “We will not be testing on site at Commencement.” Protocols in yesterday’s email included completing a COVID-19 health form prior to arrival, face masks to be worn at all times except while eating or taking photos, and social distancing.

The Poly received a screenshot of a parent’s post in the RPI Parent Facebook group of an email response by Operations and Information Manager Chris Klein, which stated that “if guests are unable to get a PCR, you can use a rapid test – just have them take a picture of the result and that will be sufficient.”

Graduate student Nathan Rausch told The Poly, “Commencement weekend is stressful enough as it is, but leave it to the Institute to make it more stressful. The sudden expectation to be PCR tested within 48 hours prior to commencement sent my family into a flurry of stress, as two members are traveling and would be unable to fulfill the requirement. While the modification allowing rapid tests certainly relieved stress, graduating students were left with one final reminder of the lasting legacy of the Institute in most of our minds, one of rushed decisions by administration and poor last second planning.”

Class of 2022 President Chevy Chen wrote to The Poly, “I appreciate the added flexibility in options to get tested, be it getting an at-home test/antigen test or a PCR test. I think this is what the communication should’ve been from the start: recognizing that not everyone can just up and get a PCR test immediately with short notice. Flexibility in options is important, and these are standards for [international] travel as well… typically 72 hours from departure PCR is acceptable, and Antigen [test] is acceptable if taken 24 hours from departure or sooner, so I’m glad that these are aligned with what’s easier for people.”

Before today’s email update was sent out, The Poly asked graduating students earlier in the day for their thoughts on the updated requirements for a negative COVID-19 test 48 hours in advance. Adrian Alicea Roman ’22 commented, “It’s hard to get my family tested on such short notice. I wish RPI had let us know earlier.” Owen McGee ’22 told The Poly, “I don’t know if my parents will be able to get access to a test with this short notice.”

Harrison Todd ’22 wrote to The Poly, “The short notice is really inconvenient, especially since the cases have been rising in Rensselaer County since mid-April. I feel like this requirement could’ve been communicated further in advance. Even an additional week notice would give time for guests to plan their tests around their likely very busy schedules this week… to me, it seems like another due-diligence type policy we see all the time at RPI, like the one in Fall 2020 that tried to implement a bathroom ratio for off-campus students.”

Tracy Chen ’22 expressed that RPI's notice yesterday felt “very last minute” and “unaccommodating.” Chen added that “a lot of testing sites promise a return of results [sic] within 48 hours due to [the] recent rise in cases.” Ti Dinh ’22 told The Poly of her frustration that “[the change] was told to us yesterday, which only gives people today and [tomorrow] to get tested, which is way too rushed, especially for working parents.”

In order to attend Friday’s President’s Colloquy, May 2022 graduates are required to get tested for COVID-19 today, between 9 am and 3:45 pm at the Alumni Sports & Recreation Center (AS&RC). If May 2022 graduates do not plan on attending the President’s Colloquy but plan on attending Commencement, graduates could also get tested on Thursday, May 19 between 9 am and 3:45 pm.

August and December 2021 graduates are required to test for COVID-19 on either Thursday, May 19, or Friday, May 20. If students cannot get tested on campus during these times, they must upload their negative PCR test results taken 48 hours prior to Commencement on DIAL beginning Thursday, May 19, at 8 am through Friday, May 20, at 12 pm. If results come out later than the deadline, graduates are required to bring their negative result information with them to Commencement check-in at 7 am on Saturday morning.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 since February 20 do not need to get pre-arrival COVID-19 testing because they may still test positive again. However, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 since February 20 are required to upload a “laboratory titer report showing positive antibody evidence to COVID-19 infection,” a lab report indicating a positive COVID-19 test, or a note from a physician’s office documenting the COVID-19 infection to DIAL.

May graduates who tested positive for COVID-19 since February 20 do not need to upload anything since the Institute already has this information.

The Commencement ceremony this year is scheduled for Saturday, May 21 at the East Campus Athletic Village from 8:15 am until 11:30 am, with the President’s Picnic to follow on the ’86 Field and the Hassan Quad from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm.