Spring graduation ceremonies canceled as coronavirus spreads

SCAD, University of Michigan, UC Irvine, US Navy, US Air Force and others postpone scheduled commencement ceremonies

As large gatherings are banned to prevent the coronavirus quickly spreading from person to person, many students are asking about upcoming spring graduation ceremonies.

Dozens of universities will postpone a decision, but as of Monday several have already altered plans including University of Michigan, Brigham Young University, Grinnell College, West Texas A&M, Berea College, Grambling State, the Savannah College of Art and Design, UC Irvine, Howard University and professional military education programs. The University of Pennsylvania announced Monday evening it is postponing its ceremony.

"We want to be celebrate and cherish our students. But we were following the logic: If we're sending everybody out, why would we bring everybody back in?" — Anne Harris, Grinnell College dean and vice president for academic affairs


The list of colleges impacted will continue to grow, especially as the CDC recommends that gatherings of more than 50 should be halted for the next eight weeks.

Many are forced to get creative with arrangements to honor graduating students while still being CDC compliant.

»MORE: US moves nearer to shutdown amid coronavirus fears

Grinnell is considering an online alternative for commencement. Another institution, Grambling State University, announced Friday that seniors will get diplomas mailed to them and can participate in a future ceremony,  according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force have announced a ban on family members attending graduation ceremonies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Other students are planning “unofficial gatherings” to recognize their classmates. Wellesley College students held their “unofficial gathering” last weekend near Boston. The private women’s liberal arts college did not sponsor the event that was organized by students.

»RELATED: 'Large-gathering' bans enacted by state governors to contain COVID-19

While many impacted students have voiced disappointment, others show support of their school’s difficult decisions.

"This diploma is not just for myself. It's for my family, it's for my parents. That ability to stand on that stage, to do that, is something I've been thinking of and dreaming of since I was a young girl," a first-generation college student at Wesleyan University told The Associated Press. "On one hand I'm very sad, but I also acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and I'm trying to be rational and understanding about that."

Students and their families aren't the only ones disadvantaged by an uncertain graduation season. Many colleges spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on graduations due to "diplomas, diploma covers, shipping costs, ceremony set-up, staff wages and the production costs of the video shown at commencement," according to USA Today.

Originally the University of Michigan had booked former Vice President Al Gore to speak.

Now the university doesn’t even know when a ceremony would take place.

According to enrollment reports, there are more than 12,000 University of Michigan seniors for the 2020 school year, the largest class in the last seven years of data shown.

"We know that this decision is very upsetting for many of our graduates and their families. Our students work incredibly hard to reach this milestone, and those who earn a Michigan degree deserve to be celebrated with their friends, professors, families and loved ones. ... At the same time, we want commencement to be safe – for our graduates, the hundreds of employees who prepare for and work during the ceremonies, and the tens of thousands who join us to celebrate. The health and well-being of our community is our highest priority. Large gatherings are not safe right now, and we don't know when they will be." —University of Michigan announcement

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