Letter from President Paxson: Brown’s Commencement and Reunion Weekend

With no signs of the global coronavirus pandemic ending soon, the University will postpone its Commencement and Reunion Weekend until a new date for the celebration can be determined.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — With the impact of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) projected to continue into the months ahead, Brown University will postpone its Commencement and Reunion Weekend from its traditional Memorial Day weekend schedule.

“Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that the global coronavirus pandemic will not end soon,” Brown President Christina H. Paxson wrote in a March 24 letter to the extended Brown community. “The most optimistic epidemiological forecasts available suggest that the virus will peak in late April or early May. Even if this is accurate, it will take additional weeks and maybe months for daily life to return fully to normal.”

While the timing of the three-day celebration will change, Paxson said it is essential that the Brown community reconvenes for Commencement and Reunion and ensures the ability of all graduates to experience the University’s distinctive tradition of inviting thousands of Brown graduates back to College Hill to welcome new graduates into the alumni community.

“When I talk to Brown alumni about the single most memorable experience of their Commencement celebrations, they recall walking through the Van Wickle Gates and down the hill, with throngs of alumni, faculty and administrators lining the streets and applauding the new graduates,” Paxson wrote. “All of our 2020 graduating students deserve to have this tremendous experience.”

Paxson wrote that she hopes Commencement and Reunion can be held as early as October 2020, but it remains too early to make a final decision.

All students who complete degree requirements will formally receive degrees and become Brown graduates in May, and a virtual Degree Conferral Ceremony is being planned for Memorial Day Weekend.

The full text of Paxson’s letter is included below and on Brown’s comprehensive COVID-19 response website.

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Brown Commencement and Reunion Weekend

Dear Brown Students and Extended Community,

This is truly an unprecedented time. As we’re all aware, the country and the world are in the grips of an international health crisis that is creating hardship and loss for numerous communities and families. I hope that you and those you love continue to be healthy and safe.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that the global coronavirus pandemic will not end soon. The most optimistic epidemiological forecasts available suggest that the virus will peak in late April or early May. Even if this is accurate, it will take additional weeks and maybe months for daily life to return fully to normal.

Earlier this month, I informed our students that we would decide no later than March 27 whether Commencement and Reunion Weekend could be held in May. Given the current projections, it is already clear that the ceremony and activities must be postponed. It saddens me that our community will not be together for this important milestone this spring, but I hope it can be held as early as October 2020 (although it remains too early to make a final decision).

We will keep our students, families and alumni community informed about the date as soon as it can be set, and we will do all we can to support new graduates who may need financial support to get back to campus.

It is important to me that we hold Commencement and Reunion as a community together, as we always do. When I talk to Brown alumni about the single most memorable experience of their Commencement celebrations, they recall walking through the Van Wickle Gates and down the hill, with throngs of alumni, faculty and administrators lining the streets and applauding the new graduates. All of our 2020 graduating students deserve to have this tremendous experience.

Of course, for our students who are completing degree requirements this semester, you will formally receive your degrees and become Brown graduates at the usual time. We are planning a virtual Degree Conferral Ceremony that will take place over Memorial Day Weekend. We will send details in the coming weeks.

I am so sorry to write with such disappointing news, especially during a stressful and difficult time for all of us. I hope the entire campus community joins me in looking forward to the resumption of classes next week, which I hope will bring some normalcy to all of our lives.

As we prepare to resume classes, Brown remains the resilient and collaborative community that prioritizes our students’ wellbeing and academic success. Let’s learn together, support each other, and be there for one another. Let’s do all the things that make our community special at Brown.    

Sincerely,

Christina H. Paxson
President