August In-Person Commencements Postponed; Virtual Graduation Celebrations and Conferral of Degrees Planned

MICHAEL K. YOUNG
PRESIDENT

May 29, 2020

Dear Aggie Community:

I hope that you and your families had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Here in College Station and at our other campuses, we too took a brief break to be with our families and remember the Aggies and other Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation.

Staff, faculty and student leaders are again hard at work to plan for the safe return of students in the fall semester, which will involve in-person and online options, more of which I will share in a separate message today in line with guidance from The Texas A&M University System. We will continue to provide details and developments as we know more throughout the summer.

In April, I promised you that by the end of May, we would have more information about the feasibility of an in-person August commencement. You can see by the title of this message that I did not want to sugarcoat what is assuredly disappointing news for August graduates and their families. We will postpone in-person commencement ceremonies. We will mark this momentous milestone for our students and their families in August through virtual graduation celebrations as we did in May, to include the official virtual conferral of degrees. More information is forthcoming.

Some of you may be wondering why we would make this decision about August commencement while opening for the fall. Please allow me to review some of the rationale for this decision.

Our top priority is the safety of our students, faculty and staff, and our core mission is to provide a world-class education.

By order of Gov. Greg Abbott, restrictions remain in place for large group gatherings. While these restrictions may be lifted by early August, it is imperative that we plan for a smooth transition to fall and reduce risk of outbreak.

The challenge of social distancing in any indoor facility, including Reed Arena, is the large group of families, faculty, staff and students who would be present. Outdoor activities are also a concern because of extreme August heat.

Still, another important challenge for August are plans that we also will announce today for an earlier start to the fall semester and an even earlier presence of students returning for move-in and activities. Move-in period for on-campus students will now begin to take place as early as the same weekend as August graduation to enhance physical distancing. It is imperative to avoid overlapping or merging groups on campus.

Texas A&M heavily researched the issue of in-person graduations for August and learned that most of our peer institutions came to the same conclusion regarding the safety and well-being of everyone.

Finally, it is not fair to students or families, faculty or staff to continue in a state of limbo. We must build in plans, mitigate risk with everything we know, and move forward together.

We will remember the costs and sacrifices of so many during this pandemic time in 2020. And so too will we remember our resilience as Aggies. Thank you to our graduates, especially, for your patience and service in this regard.

Michael K. Young
President