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Penn State Working on Two-Phase Commencement Option for Spring Semester

by on March 25, 2020 11:53 AM

With remote instruction now in place and the need to avoid large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Penn State administrators took time during a virtual town hall Tuesday afternoon to briefly address the university's decision-making surrounding spring commencement.

President Eric Barron began by pointing out that, according to the university’s calculations, more than 45,000 people would typically be in the Bryce Jordan Center in one weekend for commencement, making typical ceremonies in May infeasible under current health guidelines.

“At the same time, what we want to do is celebrate your achievements and give you that moment that’s so special,” Barron said. “We want you to have that moment that is so special that signals the completion of a degree at Penn State University.”

Barron added that the university has a special task group working on a two-phase option for commencement. The first phase would be purely virtual and award degrees to graduates with the “typical pageantry” of commencement.

“But that doesn’t really solve the issue that you want to really be together,” Barron said. “To be together with your students, to have that moment of sharing, to have that moment where you’re looking around your Penn State campus and feeling those feelings about what it has meant to be here for a degree.”

The group is working for a yet-to-be-defined second phase in which graduates would come together in-person to celebrate commencement. Barron added that the second phase would highly depend on how the coronavirus pandemic unfolds in the coming weeks and months and is highly subject to change.

Penn State postponed spring commencement last week when it announced the university would move to online classes for the remainder of the semester.

“Everyone who has spoken to me about [commencement] has told me how important it is, even if it is postponed, to be able to gather, to be able to see your friends face-to-face, to be able to look at the buildings and have that moment of celebration, which is the capstone of a Penn State degree,” Barron said.

Matt DiSanto is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State.
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