College announces no virtual commencement, postponement of 2020 ceremony to undetermined future date

Rebecca Tauber

Members of the class of 2020 will have to wait until at least next year to participate in postponed in-person commencement ceremonies. (Jeongyoon Han/The Williams Record)

Yesterday, the College announced its decision to reschedule the commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 to an undetermined future date, ruling out the option to hold a virtual ceremony on June 7.

After the College cancelled in-person commencement at the start of the month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor of Chemistry and College Marshal Jay Thoman ’82 sent a survey to the class of 2020 asking their opinions on whether to organize virtual proceedings in June or a rescheduled ceremony in the future. The form had a two-thirds response rate among seniors, more than 90 percent of whom preferred a rescheduled in-person ceremony with traditional senior-week and class-day events. 

“There seemed little support for a faux Commencement in June,” Thoman said. He explained that while no official commencement will happen this spring, the College is soliciting student comments for a few virtual celebrations during the first week of June. 

The survey also solicited student opinions on potential dates for a rescheduled ceremony. While many students asked about the possibility of an event this summer, Thoman explained that it is now clear that this is not possible due to public health concerns. 

The form asked students to rank possible options for a future date, including homecoming weekend 2020, spring break 2021, Memorial Day weekend 2021 and mid-June 2021. “There is no consensus on when,” Thoman said. “Broadly seen, there was less support for a homecoming or spring break commencement-like gathering.” 

Since the College is in the process of determining whether it will be possible for the fall semester to proceed on campus or on schedule, these options also remain up in the air. The College hopes a 2021 summer ceremony will be possible, but, given the pandemic, cannot yet determine whether this event can be open to families and the public.

Meanwhile, students in the art history and Center for Development Economics graduate programs, many of whom remain on campus in small groups, will graduate in ceremonies this spring.

Despite the lack of a commencement this June, all those who have completed graduation requirements will be considered graduates of the College on June 7 and will receive their diplomas in the mail this summer.