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Deferred Class of 2020 Commencement Pushed Back

Hope to announce new target date in coming months

June 2020 – Drew University’s deferred Commencement for the Class of 2020, which had been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, August 1, has been further delayed based on recently announced considerations for postsecondary commencement ceremonies. The guidance, put forth by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, is designed to prioritize the health and safety of our community and all ceremony attendees.

President MaryAnn Baenninger announced the decision in an email sent to the Class of 2020 and their families, a copy of which can be found below.

To members and families of the Class of 2020,

It feels to me as if the confetti—literal and figurative—is still swirling in the air from our fantastic virtual Commencement on May 9. The Class of 2020 will truly go down in history for its resilience, sacrifice, and determination. We are counting on you to go out into the world and make it a better place; I know our confidence is well placed.

I’m writing now to update you on our plans for a deferred in-person Commencement ceremony to honor you, this distinct class. In accordance with your overwhelming preference to hold an in-person ceremony at a later date, we had tentatively scheduled an in-person Commencement ceremony for August 1, 2020. Our “drop dead” date for managing all of the logistics associated with an in-person ceremony is today, June 1, 2020. At this time—using the considerations announced for postsecondary commencement ceremonies on May 27 from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) as our guide—it is clear that the August 1 deferred date is not viable for our in-person ceremony. 

Our decision was not made lightly, and of paramount concern is our significant international student population from the Class of 2020. Most international travel to the United States is currently prohibited, and we must defer our in-person ceremony to a time when we can ensure that our international student population is able to make the journey, if they would like. Also worth noting, at this time the requirements in place allow for outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people in New Jersey; we anticipate larger groups will be permitted by August 1, however we cannot assume these limits will be raised to anywhere near the number we need to welcome our 500+ graduates and their guests, which is usually close to 3,000 attendees. Finally, we believe the purpose of an in-person deferred ceremony is to provide the memorable experiences that are not achievable via a virtual ceremony. The current guidance does not permit gestures and traditions such as the handing of diplomas to graduates, and so we’d prefer to defer to a future date when these treasured moments may occur.

We know that the Governor’s and OSHE’s guidance strives to protect our students, faculty, staff and guests, and we most certainly want to keep our community healthy and safe. Our hope is that situations in New Jersey improve enough that we are able to announce a date in the fall for our Class of 2020 ceremony. In the event we are still unable to do so, however, please hold some space for a rescheduled deferred ceremony concurrent with Commencement 2021, traditionally held the second weekend of May. We will stay in touch as plans are finalized to do our very best to honor and celebrate your unique class, and we hope you and your families will be able to join us in The Forest.

I’ll close by offering my sympathy, care, and appreciation to each of you, coping in various degrees with this terrible pandemic. We are joined together by our shared Drew spirit, and I am deeply grateful for the way in which you have collectively responded to the challenges brought about by this crisis. The backdrop of lost precious moments and experiences—which I wish so much I could give to you—was and remains overshadowed by Drew’s collective pride and joy in all you’ve accomplished. You worked just as hard—maybe even harder—to achieve your academic success, to cooperate with quickly evolving situations, and to uphold the health and safety of our community. You deserve to be celebrated with all of the elements of our traditional ceremony, and we look forward to the time when we may do so.

With best wishes to you all,

MaryAnn Baenninger

Follow Drew University on social media at @drewuniversity, or check back at drew.edu/stories, for updates.

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