The University has postponed Final Exercises for the Class of 2020 until October 9-11 due to COVID-19 concerns. If the October date proves unfeasible, Final Exercises will again be rescheduled to May 28-30 of 2021 — a week after Final Exercises for the Class of 2021.
The University will also hold a virtual ceremony May 16 to confer degrees. The original graduation ceremony was scheduled for May 16 and 17 but was canceled over the global pandemic.
“[The virtual ceremony] will serve as the official end of the academic year and allow all those who earned their degrees to graduate on time,” University President Jim Ryan said in a Thursday email to the Class of 2020. “We are planning something memorable to mark the occasion, and will have more details to share soon.”
The October 9-11 graduation ceremony coincides with the University’s fall reading days, and it will still take place on the Lawn. Each graduating student will receive six tickets for guest seating. Details regarding individual school and department ceremonies and their possible dates are still being determined — and the University will share that information at a later date.
“This year’s Final Exercises will be different in some respects from the ones we had originally planned, and had been looking forward to,” Ryan said. “I expect it will be one of the most joyful occasions the Lawn has ever seen, and a moment all of us will remember forever.”
The decision to reschedule comes a month after Ryan and Provost Liz Magill announced the cancellation of Final Exercises as planned March 18, adding that a committee of students and faculty were charged with brainstorming “creative alternatives” to the May ceremony. In the email, Ryan and Magill also canceled all on-Grounds events until at least May 15, regardless of size. Currently, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.
The initial announcement prompted outcry among many graduating fourth-year students, and a petition to postpone Final Exercises garnered over 6,200 signatures. Ryan later clarified on Twitter that the planning committee of students and faculty was considering postponement as an option. The decision to reschedule Final Exercises follows the final recommendation from the committee.
Ryan said the University recommends against making travel plans for the October date until more information is known regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the University's fall operations.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more updates.