April 7, 2020
To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Convocation 2020
Date: April 7, 2020
The University of Chicago, informed by the epidemiology expertise at the Pritzker School of Medicine and the Medical Center, and in coordination with federal, state, and city agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has taken a number of steps to contribute to the safety of our community and to participate responsibly in the effort to address the spread of COVID-19. Several of the actions we have taken have not been easy for the University community as a whole or for individual faculty, students, and staff who have been significantly affected in a variety of ways. Today, we are announcing additional difficult steps in the light of the current situation.
The 533rd Convocation ceremonies will not be held on campus in June 2020 as originally planned. Given the current guidance from the CDC, other public health officials, and our own faculty and physicians working on the forefront of the COVID-19 response, and the understanding of the trajectory of the pandemic, it is not practical or responsible to proceed with planning an in-person gathering of more than 15,000 people.
Though we cannot be together on campus this June, the importance of recognizing our students’ collective academic accomplishments and conferring degrees remains. We are planning a virtual Convocation ceremony to take place on June 13, to confer degrees and celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of the Class of 2020. We are also prepared to deliver the physical diploma to each student who receives the degree as soon as possible thereafter.
We invite all graduates in the Class of 2020 to return to campus in June 2021 and participate fully in the 534th Convocation ceremonies. We will use this opportunity for a special acknowledgement and celebration of the accomplishments of 2020 graduates in the presence of faculty, students’ families, and the broader community. We recognize that participation in Convocation ceremonies is, for many, an irreplaceable experience, enjoyed with the whole University and in the company of one’s friends, family, and classmates and we hope you will be able to join us in the spring of 2021 to do so.
Students and faculty will hear from your deans and deans of students as plans for virtual or in-person activities for diploma ceremonies develop. The convocation site will be updated regularly as new information about diploma ceremonies and other activities for the class of 2020 becomes available.
Since 1893, the University’s convocation has brought together all elements of the University community: degree candidates and their families, alumni, friends, faculty, staff members, deans, officers and trustees of the University, the provost, and the president. Today the entire University of Chicago community, both on campus and beyond, is facing a deeply challenging situation. Our staff and patients at UChicago Medicine and their families are daily managing through an unprecedented situation, and our faculty, students, and staff, as well as the parents and families of our students, are facing a spring quarter none of us expected. The decisions we face now are difficult ones, but we must take our responsibility to each other and to the broader communities of which we are a part with the utmost seriousness.
We share your disappointment in this news but remain confident that we will find appropriate ways as a University community to celebrate the Class of 2020 in ways both singular and enduring.