Brown postpones Commencement, virtual ceremony to take its place

The University will postpone Commencement and Reunion Weekend, traditionally held in May, due to the continuing global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The annual ceremony, in which the class of 2020 will formally receive diplomas and become graduates, will be replaced by a virtual “Degree Conferral Ceremony” during Memorial Day weekend. 

The postponed Commencement “can be held as early as October 2020,” though a specific date has not yet been decided, according to an email sent yesterday to the University community by President Christina Paxson P’19. In addition, “We will do all we can to support new graduates who may need financial support to get back to campus,” Paxson wrote. 

In the email, Paxson cited predictions about the trajectory of COVID-19 in justification of the postponement.

“The most optimistic epidemiological forecasts available suggest that the virus will peak in late April or early May. Even if this is accurate, it will take additional weeks and maybe months for daily life to return fully to normal,” Paxson wrote. 

In 2019, Commencement and Reunion Weekend attracted over 10,000 people, according to a University press release. The decision to postpone Commencement in favor of a virtual ceremony means that many members of this year’s senior class may graduate without the presence of the graduates, friends and family that attend Commencement every year. The postponement of reunion activities, which would have occurred during the same Memorial Day weekend, also impacts the thousands of alums traditionally welcomed back to campus. 

“I’m not surprised. I think everyone expected it given the severity of the coronavirus crisis, but (I’m) still bummed to hear,” Elliott Kang ’20 said in reaction to the University’s decision. 

“We’ve been blessed already to have three and a half beautiful years of school … so it’s alright if it’s for the better good,” Nathaniel Nguyen ’20 said. 

But both Kang and Nguyen expect that they and many other seniors will not be able to attend a later Commencement in the fall due to difficulty taking time off work. “It’s hard to get a day off and there’s going to be a problem with housing,” Nguyen said. “It’s just going to be chaotic.”

Additional details on the virtual commencement ceremony will be provided in the coming weeks.

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