Despite anticipation of an in-person homecoming weekend following virtual events last year, Georgetown University announced it would cancel celebrations because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
University administrators made the decision to cancel the annual celebration after Georgetown Vice President and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Ranit Mishori (MED ’02) recommended all on-campus events limit size to mitigate any possible exposure to COVID-19. Typical celebrations often featured throngs of students congregating on the Village A rooftops, in addition to other graduate-related events, like distinguished graduate panels.
Administrators were principally concerned with COVID-19 safety protocols when making decisions around the event, according to an email to students announcing the cancellation of the event.
“In support of these guidelines and out of an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to forego Homecoming Weekend this fall. Please know we remain committed to engaging and celebrating you and our alumni,” the email reads.
While Elle Santry (COL ’21) understands the decision to cancel the event, she will still miss the opportunity to reunite with friends from her time at Georgetown.
“I understand that they don’t want COVID being spread to the campus but I feel like Georgetown keeps deciding to cancel instead of making any effort to make something work for us,” Santry wrote in a text message to The Hoya. “I was really looking forward to seeing all my friends who had graduated and finally being able to celebrate my time on campus in person after being online for a whole year.”
While the move is disappointing for current students, the cancellation is especially frustrating for seniors who graduated last year, according to David Guttierez (SFS ’22).
“Even outside of my class, the people that have graduated, they’re extremely frustrated with this too,” Gutierrez said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “They just graduated, they spent a year and a half in limbo, and they’re being told their first year out, ‘You don’t even get a graduation, you can’t even come back to campus to enjoy the one event that’s designed to bring you back to campus.”
The move to cancel the 2021 celebrations marks the second year in a row that the annual festivities have been impacted by COVID-19. The 2020 homecoming celebrations were held from Oct. 22 to Oct. 25 and featured an all-virtual lineup of events.
The typical scale of homecoming and the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic would have made it difficult to safely hold in-person events for seniors, according to Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22), a board member of the Senior Class Committee, which plans social events for the senior class, including programming during homecoming.
“We really try our best to make sure that all events we put on and anything we advertise is accessible, the most way possible, and that includes following COVID-related protocols,” Sanchez said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “So honestly, it would have been very difficult for us to execute any safe senior events anyway for homecoming given the scale and the amount of people traveling.”
In place of the in-person celebrations, the university will offer online graduate engagement events throughout the year, according to the email announcement.
Despite the precautions, however, many students will probably still return to the D.C. area to celebrate homecoming, according to Gutierrez.
“I think it’s a poor decision because when you think about it, people are going to be coming back to campus no matter what, regardless of whether or not the university is hosting any event,” Gutierrez said. “But by them not hosting any event on campus, you’re just pushing people to go out into the district, and it’s literally a public safety and public health concern.”
Although seniors won’t get the homecoming experience they were expecting, the alternatives offered by the university and the SCC will still provide a memorable experience, according to Sanchez.
“Hopefully even though homecoming won’t necessarily happen in the normal way, hopefully, the extended orientation events would help ease that gap in the senior experience,” Sanchez said.