Universities plan alternative graduation festivities in time of coronavirus

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Universities are making alternative plans for the Class of 2020 to mark commencement in the time of the coronavirus.

On Friday, University of Michigan invited graduates to submit photos, videos and quotes that reflect their time at the university as part of a wide range of festivities leading up to a May 2 online address by President Mark Schlissel.

“Commencement is a very special time for all of us at UM,” Schlissel said. “We all recognize how great an accomplishment this is and share the goal of making a commencement ceremony as meaningful as possible when we are able.”

Wayne State University will offer a virtual commencement ceremony on April 29. 

"I understand that this is not the way you pictured celebrating the culmination of your efforts," Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said in a letter to students Thursday, "but I hope you and your family and friends will participate, and I hope you sense just how proud we are of what you've achieved."

Ferris State University will offer a virtual ceremony on May 8 and 9 and an in-person commencement exercise on December 17. For the virtual ceremony, students can record a 12-second video and upload it to a specially designed web page that will include a Snapchat filter with a cap and gown for those without a cap and gown, officials said.

Each graduate will have their own announcement slide with their name, degree, photo and a quote or thank you message that will be streamed, and the virtual ceremony will include remarks from Ferris State President David  Eisler and other university officials.

"Please remember that we continue to be here for you," wrote Joy N. Pulsifer, Ferris State dean of student life. "Together, we will continue to work together to make it through this."

Meanwhile, Oakland University will move spring commencement to August 27-29. OU's medical school commencement has also tentatively been moved back to June 12.

Michigan State University postponed its May 2 ceremony a few weeks ago and "is still working on creative ways to hold a future ceremony or recognize the Class of 2020 and their accomplishments," said spokeswoman Emily Guerrant.

For graduates from UM's Ann Arbor campus, several performances and greetings will be online for graduates from the Ann Arbor campus in the days prior to May 2.

The festivities won't be on online commencement ceremony but a way to mark the occasion that officials canceled because of the COVID-19 global pandemic that has shut down public life.

The date for the Ann Arbor university's in-person ceremony has not yet been determined but officials are considering spring 2021. Suggestions can be emailed to springcommencement@umich.edu.

UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint are also planning for alternate graduation celebrations.

UM-Dearborn spring and summer graduates are invited to participate in the winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 19, and UM-Flint has tentatively set Aug. 16 as an alternate date for the spring commencement.

Schlissel thanked students for persevering during the pandemic, adapting to remote instruction, following social distancing recommendations and helping their peers and the larger community.

“This semester has been one of the most challenging in the long history of the University of Michigan — for both your studies and your personal and family lives," Schlissel said. "Your resilience in the face of great adversity has been inspiring."

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken much from us, we remain a strong and resilient university, in large part because of the talented students who choose UM. We are great because you are great.”