The following message was sent to our graduating students this morning, but it is being shared with our faculty and staff here as well.
I am writing to tell you that we have made the very difficult decision to postpone our spring commencement ceremonies at Camp Randall and the Kohl Center, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also recorded a video message to the members of the Class of 2020.
Of all the decisions we’ve had to make in this extraordinary time, this one has been the most heartbreaking for me. There is no better event at UW than commencement when we award degrees and celebrate the completion of school for our graduates.
We held out on this decision as long as possible, in hopes that the outlook for late spring might brighten and we’d be able to gather as usual, but as you probably know, both the CDC and State of Wisconsin have put out guidance regarding gatherings of large groups of people. That means that in addition to the main ceremonies, graduation celebrations in schools, colleges, departments and campus organizations will also not go forward in May.
These are important and necessary steps for the health of our community, but I know they add to the stress and uncertainty you’re feeling. The upheaval we’ve all lived through in the past few weeks has had a particularly deep impact on our graduating seniors. For you, this final semester should be about completing your degree and celebrating your years of hard work with your faculty mentors, classmates, family, and friends.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed many things. But it doesn’t change the exceptional achievements of the Class of 2020. You’ve voted in record numbers, helped to perform more than 30,000 hours of community volunteer work, and made UW-Madison the #1 university in the nation for Peace Corps volunteers. You are Rhodes Scholar finalists, national champion athletes, inventors, entrepreneurs, and dedicated students with the skills and passion to lead our nation and our world to a better place.
In consultation with the senior class officers, we are developing a virtual commencement that we’ll post online on Friday, May 8, for all graduates to watch in celebration of the successful completion of your studies. Our students are also helping us design an in-person event that we’ll host when we emerge from this public health crisis, for everyone who can attend.
Let me emphasize that the lack of an in-person May commencement ceremony does NOT mean you are not graduating. We will share information about how you will receive your diploma as soon as we have it. You can continue to find important updates on our Commencement website.
I am immensely proud of every one of you. You are living through the kind of moment that shapes an entire generation, and you’re doing it with grace, resilience, and compassion.
Thank you. I look forward to offering my congratulations both virtually in May and in person later in the year.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank