CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Harvard University’s spring graduation ceremony will be replaced by a virtual event for the second year in a row amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the Ivy League school announced Friday.
In a message to students, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow called it “deeply disappointing” but said health and safety must be the top priority.
“Though circumstances may well improve by spring, it takes months of planning to prepare for our usual festivities, which draw to campus and to Cambridge thousands of people from around the world,” he said. “Right now, the risk posed by that possibility is too great.”
Bacow vowed to bring the graduating class back to campus for an “unforgettable” graduation celebration at some point in the future, a promise that was also made to last year’s graduating class.
The online event is scheduled for May 27 and will feature a keynote address from Ruth Simmons, the president of Prairie View A&M University and a former president of Brown University and Smith College.
Simmons, a prominent education advocate, became the first Black president of an Ivy League school when she was hired at Brown in 2000. She testified on behalf of Harvard in a 2018 trial in a lawsuit challenging Harvard’s consideration of race in its admission process.
Harvard graduates will receive their diplomas in the mail, Bacow said.
The school typically hosts elaborate graduation ceremonies with festivities that span days. Recent speakers at the main event include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and director Steven Spielberg.
Some other Massachusetts colleges are hoping to hold limited in-person graduation events within the bounds of city and state limitations on in-person gatherings.
Boston University says it will host an outdoor ceremony for students only as long as city officials do not further limit outdoor gatherings. Smith College is also planning for a student-only ceremony as long as state guidelines allow it.