UPDATE: Several Georgia colleges cancel commencement ceremonies

May 10, 2019 Athens - Students react as they listen to commencement speaker Deborah Ann Roberts, news correspondent, during UGA's 2019 spring undergraduate commencement ceremony at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Friday, May 10, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
May 10, 2019 Athens - Students react as they listen to commencement speaker Deborah Ann Roberts, news correspondent, during UGA's 2019 spring undergraduate commencement ceremony at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Friday, May 10, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia’s largest public and private universities have decided to either cancel or alter their planned commencement ceremonies in May, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Georgia State University, the state’s largest public school, with about 53,000 students, posted several messages on social media about its decision. Like several other colleges and universities that have made similar decisions, Georgia State expressed its regret about the cancellation.

“Because of the public health emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic, the University System of Georgia (USG) has informed USG institutions we will not be conducting graduation ceremonies this spring,” the statement began. “We understand how profoundly disappointing this news is for our graduates. We are committed to finding ways to honor you at a time when large gatherings are once again safe. At that time, we will turn our attention to identifying where, when and how to do so, and we will communicate directly with graduates when the details become available.”

Emory University, Georgia’s largest private institution, announced Wednesday afternoon it will not have the planned celebration on campus. Its president, Claire E. Sterk, said the school is planning a celebration of this year’s graduating class with details to come.

Kennesaw State University, which had more undergraduate seniors at the start of the fall 2019 semester than any school in Georgia, 10,014 seniors, will reschedule its commencement to an undetermined date, the school announced Wednesday morning.

Still, many students and parents have expressed their anger and disappointment about these decisions.

 

The University of Georgia and Georgia Southern University said Tuesday afternoon it will cancel its commencement ceremony and all upcoming public events, citing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Additionally, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College announced Tuesday evening that they are moving their commencement events from May to December. Spelman College said Wednesday afternoon it will have an in-person ceremony at a later date.

Georgia Southern, which had nearly 5,900 seniors at the start of the fall 2019 semester, was the first public institution in the state to make the announcement, on its website, Tuesday afternoon.

“One of the most important preventative measures is to avoid having people in large groups as advised by the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC,” Georgia Southern said in a message on its website. “Accordingly, we unfortunately need to cancel all public events to include our planned commencement exercises on May 8 & 9.”

Georgia Southern spokeswoman Jennifer Wise told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the school is exploring other options to celebrate the graduates.

UGA administrators posted a similar message on its website. It had nearly 10,000 undergraduate seniors at the start of the fall 2019 semester. UGA has nearly 39,000 students.

“We realize that the cancellation of many of these activities is extremely disappointing — particularly the cancellation of Spring Commencement on Friday, May 8, 2020. Therefore, we are exploring other ways to honor our graduates and will communicate when those plans are known. These decisions are not made lightly, but with the best interests of our campus community and our students’ families and loved ones in mind,” the message read.

“Students will still be able to graduate, consistent with academic standards, but the actual ceremonies for both undergraduate and graduate commencement will be canceled for May 8, 2020.”

The University System of Georgia, which oversees operations at UGA, Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Kennesaw State and about 20 other institutions, said Monday it plans to go to online instruction for the rest of the spring semester.