A Message to the Penn Community on Major Changes to Commencement
March 16, 2020
I write today to share what I know will be disappointing for so many, as it is to me. Based on the recent recommendations of the CDC and leading public health experts, who are now directing against any public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next two months, we cannot responsibly plan to bring thousands of people to campus for our traditional Commencement and Alumni Weekend in May. To protect the health of our graduates, their families, alumni, and faculty and staff of the University—our highest priority in the face of this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic—we are cancelling this year’s on-campus Commencement events and moving them to a virtual ceremony that will be broadcast online.
Given the uncertainty of when it might again be safe to bring such large groups together, and the rapidly changing scale of the pandemic, we know that this change is the only responsible action we can take.
Many things have rapidly changed in our world in the past few weeks, and we know how difficult and confusing this can be. Commencement is such an important tradition at Penn, a time of abundant joy and pride, where we all publicly celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our graduates. While it will not be the same as our traditional ceremony, we are committed to finding the best way possible to recognize the achievements of the Class of 2020, and we will strive to make the virtual event as meaningful and celebratory as the circumstances permit. We are also exploring the possibility of an on-campus celebration for this year’s graduates that could be held in the fall. We will let you know details of that as they become clearer.
I wanted to get this information to you as soon as possible, so that graduates and their families, along with our wonderful Penn alumni, can make appropriate plans. We will provide more specific details regarding the virtual ceremony as they are developed in the coming weeks. We will broadcast the events on the same dates as were originally planned for the on-campus activities so please hold those same days—May 16-18—for the virtual celebrations. There will be communication to Penn Alumni about the reunion celebrations later this week from Alumni Relations.
I regret that this semester has been upended in so many ways. But in our lifetime the world has not faced a challenge as unique and complicated as the one that we currently confront. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to conclude the semester in a safe and positive way.
Together we will make it work. It is one of the countless reasons I’m so proud of everyone in the Penn family.
Amy Gutmann, Penn President