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UVa cancels formal May graduation ceremonies as pandemic restrictions continue

For the second straight year, University of Virginia students on the slate to graduate will find very little pomp due to a lot of circumstances as the school has decided to forego traditional final exercises in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

UVa will confer degrees to students online and produce a celebratory internet-based event for students, friends and families this May.

Graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020, which were postponed until this spring due the initial pandemic outbreak, are also being shelved, said UVa President Jim Ryan, in a message to the class.

Ryan discussed the postponements in two separate messages, one for each graduating class.

“I am sorry to say that, given the pandemic, we are not going to be able to hold final exercises as usual this May,” Ryan wrote to this year’s crop of seniors. “The challenge remains around the size of gatherings permitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia and travel advisories, both of which preclude us from being able to host a ceremony that families and friends can attend.”

Ryan said the school is consulting with 2021 class leaders to determine which of two options the class should take. Those are to hold “modified graduation events this spring that involve only our graduating students but no guests,” or postponing graduation events to a future date.

“In either case, we will confer degrees and produce a celebratory virtual event for students, friends, and families this May,” Ryan wrote. “For those making plans, please know that we will not be able to accommodate any guests this May, regardless of whatever option we ultimately pursue.”

Ryan told last year’s class that their ceremonies have been pushed off another year. Due to the pandemic, last year’s graduates also received degrees in a virtual ritual in May with plans to combine formal ceremonies with the 2021 class.

“After consultation with the Finals 2020 Advisory Group, which includes student leaders from your class, we have decided to again postpone your in-person graduation activities to the summer of 2022,” he wrote. “I realize this news may come as another disappointment, and for that I am truly sorry.”

It’s not the first time for the Class of 2020. When it became clear last year that 2020 celebrations would need to be delayed, administrators originally considered holding them in the fall during October’s fall break. That didn’t work out as the pandemic led the school to cancel fall break to finish in-person instruction by Thanksgiving.

Ryan wrote the class in April 2020 noting that the school could not accommodate “thousands of graduates and their families at the same time” that classes continued. He also noted that social distancing requirements would make it nearly impossible to hold traditional graduation ceremonies.

Not much has changed in the last year, thus forcing the postponement to 2022. But Ryan said the 2020 group is devising a program that will allow students to have a formal graduation combined with a two-year class reunion.

“This event, which will combine elements of final exercises and an early reunion, will provide an opportunity to walk the Lawn for those who wish to do so as well as a chance to reconnect with classmates, friends, and faculty in meaningful ways,” he wrote. “Thank you for your continued patience and understanding, and I look forward to seeing you when we gather in 2022.”

Ryan told the 2021 class in his letter that he regretted the decision.

“I regret having to deliver this news, which I know comes as a disappointment, though perhaps not a surprise,” he wrote. “I know this is not the way you expected to end your time at UVa, nor is it the way we would like to celebrate your accomplishments. Still, I remain confident we will be able to celebrate and honor your class in a way that will be both meaningful and memorable.”


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