2020 graduation goes virtual

PSU announces all commencement ceremonies will be held remotely

In response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19, Portland State has released new changes near daily, moving most for their operations–from classes to offices–to work remotely. 


The latest to make the move? 2020 Commencement Ceremonies. 


Commencement ceremonies—for all schools and colleges and for all graduates and undergraduates—will be held virtually in June. PSU first made the announcement in an email to graduating students March 26 and later to the PSU community at large, urging them to support the class of 2020. 


“These are very difficult decisions we have to make,” PSU Interim President Stephen Percy stated, “but we are making them now in recognition of the seriousness and uncertainty of the global public health challenge in front of us.” 


In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, a highly infectious disease with an exponential increase in confirmed cases daily, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends canceling gatherings of over 250 people if there is a “minimal or moderate” spread of the disease in an area. For the next 15 days, it recommends events of over 10 people either be canceled or held remotely. 


Meanwhile, the numbers for PSU’s commencement ceremonies can reach into the thousands. 


The University of Oregon has also announced that they will not hold their commencement ceremony in person. Oregon State University, according to their website, is still evaluating the situation. 


According to PSU’s website, each virtual event will be held online on June 14, with videos from various speakers and personalized slides for each student graduating. What exactly it will look like, however, is still unclear—the university has released a survey asking for student idas. 


“We understand how hard you’ve worked towards graduation and how important it is for PSU to recognize your accomplishments. We know it is disappointing not to have a traditional in-person commencement,” according to the website. “Moving to a virtual ceremony was not an easy decision, but one we were forced to make because the threat of the coronavirus is prohibiting large gatherings in Oregon until further notice.”


The initial student response to the decision, however, has largely been negative. Students have taken to social media to express their disappointment with the university, and many are questioning why commencement has been moved online as opposed to postponed to a later date. A petition to postpone the ceremonies to fall 2020 instead began circulating online.


Responding to student concerns, PSU stated in a comment on their Facebook post announcing the decision: “We are not able to postpone commencement mainly because it is not possible to know how long coronavirus restrictions will last, which puts any future bookings of large venues in doubt. In contrast, planning to host virtual ceremonies on the previously scheduled day of June 14 will enable us to recreate the pomp and circumstance of commencement and ensures that we will be able to celebrate all of our 2020 graduates.” 


This is a developing story–a longer piece will be released in our next issue. We want to hear from you! If you have thoughts or comments, email [email protected] or [email protected] and your responses may be featured in a future article.