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Stanford commits to holding on-campus commencement ‘in the future’

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Stanford has committed to holding an on-campus commencement celebration for the class of 2020 “at some point in the future,” according to an update to the University’s “Commencement Weekend” page. Stanford also plans to “recognize and celebrate” graduates in June “at a distance.”

The University wrote that the timing and format of commencement will depend on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 8,300 people in California have tested positive for the virus, and Santa Clara County extended its shelter-in-place order through May 3 on Monday.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne told program directors in a call last Wednesday that the University has assembled a working group to be in touch with each of Stanford’s schools and the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) before a final decision on commencement is made.

“We want students to be able to be there,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “We want families to be able to be there. And we want to engage both graduates and undergraduates.” 

The ASSU, the President’s Office and the Senior Class Presidents will meet on Thursday to discuss Commencement, according to ASSU President Erica Scott.

The commencement update follows a March 19 email from Provost Persis Drell announcing that commencement would likely not be held “in its traditional form” due to prohibitions on large gatherings. The University has also been soliciting feedback on ways it can celebrate commencement since March 23. 

The decision to cancel a traditional commencement prompted a quick community response. One petition to host Senior Week and Commencement Weekend at a later date drew more than 3,000 signatures. Others took to writing to voice their disappointment at the initial cancellation.

“I know that I will still get my diploma and that I will be okay,” wrote Susana Benavidez ’20 in a Daily article. “But it still feels like we have been robbed of a moment — our moment, to give our parents the greatest source of pride, seeing their first-generation, American, brown children thriving in a four-year institution and being celebrated along with white American children as equals.”

This article has been updated to reflect that the President’s Office will meet with the ASSU and Senior Class Presidents on Thursday to discuss Commencement.

Contact Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Kate Selig '23 is a news managing editor. Questions, comments, concerns? Send her an email at kselig 'at' stanford.edu.