+ 2021 Frequently Asked Questions – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \

Commencement 2021 Frequently Asked Questions

The Colleges are proud to host Commencement 2021 in person. In order to comply with State and local guidelines regarding COVID-19 and to protect the health and well-being of all members of the Hobart and William Smith community, we have a number of protocols in place to which we must adhere. Below are frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions or concerns, please reach out to Director of Student Activities Kristen Tobey at tobey@hws.edu or Director of Parent Programs Jennifer Murray at murray@hws.edu. Questions can also be answered via phone by calling (315) 781-3700.


How many guests are allowed on campus for Commencement?

Each graduate may invite two guests to be on campus for Commencement. To comply with strict guidelines, there are no exceptions to this rule. Each guest must be registered in advance and will be required to check-in on campus when they arrive in Geneva.

How do I register guests for Commencement?

Graduates were sent a letter from Director of Student Activities Kristen Tobey on Monday, April 19 with instructions on registration and the link to the registration form. Graduates who still need to register guests can reach out to Kristen Tobey at tobey@hws.edu to obtain the link. We are not sharing the registration link broadly because we need to avoid multiple family members attempting to complete the registration form.

What is the deadline to register guests?

May 3.

What COVID-19 precautions do guests need to take?

All guests for Commencement weekend will be required to take the following necessary precautions to help HWS maintain a healthy community. Before arrival on campus, each guest will need to upload one of the following (we will send instructions on uploading documents closer to Commencement and after guests are registered):

  • a negative COVID-19 PCR test completed, at most, 72 hours prior to arrival
  • or a record of full vaccination (guest must have received the final vaccination dose at least 14 days prior to arrival to campus)
  • or a record of a positive COVID-19 test from within 90 days, with the guest out of isolation and no longer experiencing symptoms.

If a guest is not vaccinated, has not had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis within 90 days or was unable to receive a COVID-19 test prior to arrival, HWS will offer rapid COVID-19 testing at check-in at the Barn from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 14 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 15. We will offer limited testing on Sunday, May 16 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Testing at the Barn will be via car but we can accommodate walk-ups.

Results from rapid-testing are available within 15 minutes of sample collection. Upon review of the documentation or negative COVID-19 tests, guests will receive a wristband and lanyard/nametag pass at the check-in, clearing them to be on-campus to participate in Commencement activities. Guests must visibly display/wear the wristband and lanyard/nametag pass for the duration of the visit to campus.

What happens if a person receives a positive COVID-19 test during rapid testing?

That person, anyone in their car or accompanying them, and anyone with whom they have been in contact (including any graduates) will be asked to immediately quarantine and will not be able to participate in Commencement. We therefore strongly urge those who must use the rapid testing option to – immediately upon arrival to Geneva – go directly to the Barn for testing.

Will the Colleges offer a quarantine location for guests?

Unfortunately, no.

How do guests provide confirmation of vaccine or negative testing?

Closer to Commencement weekend, each registered guest will receive an email with directions to submit their information.

How do guests who have already submitted the proper COVID-19 documentation receive their lanyard/nametag pass and wristband for access to Commencement?

Guests who do not need a rapid test can use our Express Check-In located on the Houghton House grounds. Express Check-In will happen from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday May 14; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 15; and 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 16. Additional details will be emailed to registered guests closer to Commencement.

Should guests get the PCR test before coming to campus or do the rapid testing on campus?

We recommend guests get the testing done before coming to campus so that you can go through our Express Check-In.

How will guests be identified on campus?

All guests will be required to wear a special lanyard/nametag pass as well as a wristband. These two items are required to access Commencement.

How will guests gain access to the Commencement ceremony?

Guests will be required to wear their lanyard/nametag and wristband on campus with no exceptions. These items will allow them entry to the ceremony itself.

Can a student bring two registered guests to Baccalaureate and two different guests to Commencement?

No, each student may only have two registered guests for Commencement weekend.

What happens if there is bad weather the day of the Commencement?

The ceremony will happen rain, snow or shine. We strongly encourage all participants to watch the weather forecast and dress accordingly – including bringing an umbrella if the forecast calls for showers and dressing warmly. Since we will be outdoors on grass surfaces, please wear appropriate footwear for the weather and conditions. In the event of storms with lightning, the ceremony would end and graduates will be directed to pick up diplomas in an assigned location.

What time can guests arrive on campus?

We will be hosting guest check-in the following times: Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday 8 – 9 a.m. On Commencement morning, we will begin allowing guests to access Commencement seating starting at 8 a.m.

Is there campus housing available for guests?

No, unfortunately we are unable to provide campus housing. Local hotels and lodging can be found on our website.

My family is not able to be here for Commencement. Can I give my two guest passes to my friend?

Unfortunately, you cannot.

My extended family planned to come for the Commencement weekend. Will they be allowed to come for the ceremony?

Each graduate is allowed two guests only with no exceptions. Others members of the family can watch the ceremony live from their hotel via our livestream from a computer, i-Pad, smart phone or smart TV.

Are dogs allowed on campus?

Yes as long as they are on a leash at all times.

How do we access the livestream?

There will be a link on the HWS website that we will send out via email and social media closer to Commencement.

Can we take photos of our graduate receiving their diploma?

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, we cannot allow guests in the area where diplomas will be presented. A third-party professional photographer will capture each graduate, and graduates will be emailed a link to order photos.

In addition, the Colleges’ photographer will be at the ceremony to take photos and he will post those quickly on the Colleges’ website and social media. All HWS photos are free for download and printing.

Where will handicapped parking be located?

In the Medbery Lot. Campus Safety will be there to direct guests.

Will there be any dining options on campus over the weekend?

Because of COVID-19, there are no sit-down meals offered for guests on campus this year. However, we are offering a to-go option for the Friday night Senior Parent BBQ with pick up (on campus) or delivery options to local hotels ($10). Please click here to learn more and place your order.

Is it too late to order a cap and gown?

Please contact the College Bookstore at 315-781-3449 to make arrangements.

My graduate did not receive the registration email.

Registration emails were sent to the HWS email address and graduates are encouraged to check there for the link. For problems, please contact Director of Student Activities Kristen Tobey at tobey@hws.edu or Director of Parent Programs Jennifer Murray at murray@hws.edu. Questions can also be answered via phone by calling (315) 781-3700.

What time is Baccalaureate?

Baccalaureate will happen on Saturday, May 15 at 1:30 pm. on the Quad.

Can guests attend the Senior Lunch and Welcome on Friday?

Unfortunately, no.

Can guests attend Shabbat?

Yes, guests registered for Shabbat can attend. That registration is included on the overall registration form that was sent to graduates.