LOGAN — Utah State University President Noelle E. Cockett announced in a written statement Wednesday commencement ceremonies scheduled for the fall would be canceled until the state allows mass gatherings.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading to Utah in March, several soon-to-be graduates completed a survey seeking feedback on either a virtual commencement ceremony or a postponed ceremony, and the majority opted for postponed over virtual.
After receiving this input, Cockett and USU’s commencement committee decided to postpone the ceremonies to August and September.
However, after seeing the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly get worse and watching Gov. Gary Herbert place restrictions on mass gatherings for the foreseeable future, the committee decided to postpone ceremonies and, due to the student feedback they received, is still planning for an in-person event when the risk “decreases more significantly,” Cockett said in the statement.
While many recent graduates say they “saw it coming” and understand the university’s decision, they are still heartbroken over the news.
“Graduating college is a huge accomplishment that we won’t get to celebrate,” said Paulina Rivera-Soto, a recent graduate in political science.
Rivera-Soto also said it’s “natural” to want someone to blame, but the coronavirus pandemic makes that difficult.
“I think in these situations we always try to find someone to blame to make ourselves feel better but this is out of everyone’s hands so it makes it harder… I’m incredibly sad but safety comes first,” she added.
Emilie Wheeler, USU spokeswoman, said the commencement committee continued to review graduation plans as the pandemic spread across Utah and ultimately decided a gathering of its size — typically thousands of people — isn’t safe for the time being. Wheeler said the ceremony may not be feasible until there is a widely-accessible COVID-19 vaccine, though it could be sooner, and the university will update 2020 graduates as information progresses.
“We haven’t wanted to put a date because we don’t feel like it’s fair to students having to potentially postpone it,” she said.