B.C.’s largest universities are making tough decisions about convocation ceremonies for students set to graduate this spring as COVID-19 continues to spread.
In mid-March, the University of Victoria’s (UVic) convocation ceremonies were still scheduled for the week of June 8 to 12 as staff continued to monitor the global health crisis. By March 30, UVic announced spring convocations would be postponed to align with the advice from the provincial health officer.
An email sent to the class of 2020, signed by UVic President Jamie Cassels and Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, explained that the university is “working on an alternative way for graduates to celebrate [their] achievements.” Students will be updated when plans have been made.
UVic also confirmed students who have successfully completed their required courses will graduate on time. The university is developing a plan to ensure that all grads receive degree parchments and regalia rental fees will be automatically refunded for those who ordered grad gowns and hats online.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) also cancelled its in-person graduation ceremony in light of the global pandemic.
“This was not an easy decision, and I know how disappointing it will be, not only for our graduating students but also our faculty members, staff and the broader UBC community,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono, in a written statement on March 26.
UBC grads will come together to celebrate their achievements virtually, Ono wrote, noting that while no electronic ceremony can match the fanfare of a traditional graduation ceremony, “it will be special and it will be meaningful.”
Ono added that both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses will host postponed, in-person graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020 when it is safe to do so.
The Thompson Rivers University (TRU) spring convocation was also cancelled on March 31. University president and vice-chancellor Brett Fairbairn explained in a written statement that graduates will receive their degree parchments by mail along with a commemorative booklet featuring the names of every grad and messages from the valedictorians, the chancellor and others. Fairbairn added that the university is also looking for ways to bring the graduating class together virtually to celebrate.
“It is perhaps more important now than ever to recognize and celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of all our graduates,” he said.
As of March 31, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) had yet to make decisions about their respective spring graduation ceremonies. A statement on the SFU website indicated that staff are closely monitoring the updates from health officials.
According to Dave Pinton, UFV director of communications, the university is “carefully considering” what to do about the June graduation ceremonies and “how to best honour graduates’ achievements during this challenging time.” He added that students can expect a decision by mid-April.