The Commencement Committee met on May 28th to discuss the options for a traditional in-person commencement ceremony for the class of 2020, preferably in October in response to survey feedback.
In consultation with the COVID-19 Task Force, which is planning to limit most campus events to 25 people or fewer, the Commencement Committee concurred that it is highly unlikely that conditions would allow for an October gathering of 2,000+ people. Current CDC guidance warns of the risk of bringing together large groups of people from numerous communities with varying degrees of community transmission, particularly if some of those in attendance are in high risk populations (parents, grandparents). Such guidance also recommends cancelling events >250 people in communities of low to moderate COVID-19 transmission and cancelling altogether any gatherings in communities where there is a substantial level of community transmission.
Still hoping to make the October ceremony work, the committee explored a number of alternatives, including multiple small ceremonies throughout the day (25 graduates at a time, limit of 2 guests), or a graduates-only ceremony with live video stream for remote guests, etc. However, the student survey reflected a strong preference for a traditional ceremony with friends and family present. Student representatives on the committee agreed that limiting or eliminating guests would be undesirable. If a fall ceremony is not possible, survey respondents preferred a May ceremony.
While there is no way of knowing what the level of community transmission will be in the fall, public health experts tell us that it is highly unlikely that guidelines for large group gatherings will be eased anytime soon and warn of a second wave of viral spread in the coming months. For this reason, the committee thought it most prudent to begin planning for a May commencement event. The committee sent their recommendation to the President’s Cabinet on June 2, where the decision was made to tentatively schedule commencement for the class of 2020 in May 2021, subject to pandemic safety guidelines.
This is terribly disappointing news for everyone, but the safety of our graduates and their families, as well as our faculty, staff and students who work to make a commencement ceremony possible, is paramount. No celebration in October would be as you envisioned for your college graduation. We are committed to providing you with all of the pomp and circumstance associated with commencement, in a traditional setting and surrounded by your friends and family. At this time, May appears to be our best option.
Please keep your email and mailing address current with the Office of Alumni Relations so that we may contact you with commencement updates throughout the year.