On-campus commencement postponed, online ceremony to occur
In light of ongoing COVID-19 concerns, an on-campus commencement is postponed until further notice, according to an email sent by President David Leebron, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman and Interim Provost Seiichi Matsuda. They also announced that an online ceremony will be held on May 16, where graduates’ names will be read out loud.
The announcement follows a March 15 email from Leebron, where he said an in-person commencement would occur, but it was unclear whether or not it would occur in May as normal.
Originally, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof was scheduled to speak at the on-campus May 16 commencement. Whether or not Kristof will still deliver the commencement address, online or in person, is currently unclear. In a follow-up interview, Matsuda, Gorman and Leebron said they are forming a committee to determine details about the online and postponed ceremony, including speakers and presentation of student awards.
Leebron, Gorman and Matsuda said that the decision to postpone graduation comes after President Donald Trump announced yesterday that social distancing guidelines will stay in place until the end of April. The postponed date depends on the development of COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines.
In a follow-up interview, they said that uncertainties around traveling to campus would complicate planning for a May 16 event and contributed to their decision to postpone.
“Given the global origins of our student body (both graduate and undergraduate), we came to the conclusion that friends and family of our graduates would experience significant impediments to travelling to Houston to attend an on campus ceremony,” they wrote. “Ultimately we concluded that nothing would change enough within the next ten days or so (the possible remaining window for deciding on whether to hold or postpone campus commencement events) that would create enough certainty to go forward with the May 16 campus ceremony as planned.”
Gorman, Leebron and Matsuda said that it is “too early” to say what platform the online commencement will take place on.
“The charge of the online commencement committee is to suggest a format of events that are both creative and inclusive of the key components of our typical spring commencement ceremonies as is possible,” they wrote.
The committee planning both ceremonies will be co-chaired by Brian Gibson and Kim Gonzalez, representatives from the deans of undergraduate and postdoctoral Studies divisions respectively. The committee will also include representatives from the administration, faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate student bodies.
[4/1/2020 3:22 p.m.] This article was updated with quotes from Gorman, Matsuda and Leebron. This story will be updated as we get more information.
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