GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Gettysburg College is postponing its in-person Spring Commencement ceremony, president Bob Iuliano said Monday in a letter to the Class of 2020.
Later Monday, York College followed suit, as president Pamela Gunter-Smith announced that the campus will remain closed to students, online/virtual instruction will continue through the end of the spring semester, and all on-campus activities — including commencement, which was set for May 16 — will be rescheduled.
“I remain committed to celebrating the accomplishments of our graduates,” said Gunter-Smith.
Iuliano said organizers tried to hold off on making the decision as long as possible, but with the scheduled date of commencement just six weeks away, the time to make a decision is nigh.
Like most colleges across Pennsylvania, Gettysburg switched to a remote-classroom format earlier this month.
“I recognize how much it means to come together, as a community and with family and friends, to celebrate the academic milestone represented by graduation,” Iuliano said in his letter to upperclassmen. “I know how much you, as graduating seniors, are already feeling a sense of longing and absence given the disruption to this semester, and how much a traditional graduation in May would mean.
“Postponing the in-person May ceremonies adds to that sense of loss, and for that reason I had hoped that the passage of additional time would permit us to reconvene in front of Penn Hall in what in my mind’s eye would be a pristine, late-spring day.
“But the calendar is now turning to April, and ceremonies associated with graduation are a little more than six weeks away. The College is hearing from parents and students anxious to make plans. In addition, the logistical realities associated with graduation, whether in-person or virtual, are significant. Taken together, these factors require that we come to a decision.”
Iuliano said the fact the COVID-19 outbreak shows little sign of abating makes putting off the decision impossible.
Iuliano said the college is “actively exploring” ways to honor graduating seniors with a proper graduation.
He opened the question to graduating seniors and asked for their input on how to proceed. Options include holding a virtual ceremony on the scheduled commencement date of May 17, replicating the ceremony in-person at a later date, or some combination of the two.
“By next Monday — April 6 — I ask that you take a moment to offer your voice and thoughts through our Class of 2020 Survey,” Iuliano wrote. “This will provide us with a sense of your preferences as we move forward with our planning.”