NYU’s Class of 2020 Graduates Over Livestream

This year’s graduation ceremony was held over a 25-minute pre-edited video. In his initial email postponing the in-person ceremony President Hamilton stated the university would hold one eventually, although the details still remain unclear.

University President Andrew Hamilton spoke to graduates in a pre-recorded video livestream, on that same day the in-person commencement would have been. (Image from Abby Hofstetter)

NYU’s Class of 2020 graduated from the comfort of their homes. Though the ceremony usually takes place at Yankee Stadium, this year it was held over livestream on Wednesday, May 20 as a temporary digital replacement during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the real ceremony was postponed, not canceled, NYU’s Class of 2020 will have an in-person Commencement — when and where it will take place is still unknown. 

The livestream, which was a pre-edited video consisting mainly of speeches, lasted approximately 25 minutes. The video began with a speech from University President Andrew Hamilton, who urged the graduates not to let the pandemic define their time at NYU.

“While this crisis bonds you, it does not define you, just as these last few months do not define your entire NYU experience,” Hamilton said. “All of your achievements inside the classroom and out, all of your shared memories with your friends, all of the ways you’ve learned and grown — no virus can take that away.”

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Instead of one commencement speaker, as is the usual, this year’s ceremony had five, each speaking for around one minute: actor Billy Crystal (Tisch ‘70, Hon ‘16), journalist Yamiche Alcindor (GSAS ‘15), registered nurses Adam Hadas (Meyers ‘17) and KP Mendoza (Meyers ‘18) and actor André de Shields (Gallatin ‘91). Crystal notably delivered his speech from his backyard, covered in plastic sheeting to shield himself from the coronavirus.

“Have a great future, because the future is now your present,” Crystal said from inside the plastic.

Alcindor wished the graduates strength and perseverance.

“I know, graduates, that you’ve had some tough days, but know that you have what it takes to persevere,” she said. “Know that you have what it takes to go after your mission, your purpose, with zeal and with passion.”

Hadas applauded the graduates, citing daily cheers for New York City medical workers every evening.

“For the last couple of months at 7 p.m., the entire world has been clapping for people like me,” Hadas said, beginning to clap. “Today, I clap for you.”

Mendoza mentioned the struggles of being a nurse during the outbreak and wished the graduates kindness and compassion.

“This pandemic has made me grow into a better person. It has made me stronger for what I’ve seen and done,” Mendoza said. “But I will say this much: you will be better for the hardship that you experienced.”

De Shields discussed his love for education from the stage of the hit musical “Hadestown,” which he currently stars in.

“Education is my beacon,” De Shields said, “and education, in terms of enlightenment, is my ambition.”

Student Government Assembly Chairperson and Gallatin senior Jakiyah Bradley spoke next, reminding students to question the world around them.

“With so much uncertainty around us, I hold onto the words of one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison,” Bradley said. “‘Don’t let anybody, anybody convince you this is the way the world is and therefore must be. It must be the way it ought to be.’”

Rather than one student speaker, this year’s commencement boasted 18 — one from each of NYU’s schools. All of the students’ speeches were edited together into a segment that lasted just under six minutes. However, none of the student speakers’ names were given.

After this segment came a mock Zoom call featuring the Deans of each school, along with NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Mariët Westerman and NYU Shanghai Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman. All congratulated their graduates and wished them the best.

The livestream ended as Commencement usually does: with the conferral of degrees. Hamilton returned dressed in full presidential garb and invited the Class of 2020 to rise before officially declaring them graduates.

“It’s official: you are NYU graduates,” Hamilton said, shortly before throwing his cap in the air. “Congratulations, Class of 2020!”

Email Abby Hofstetter at [email protected]

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