Dear Spring Class of 2020,

We applaud the graduates of the Class of 2020 for finding a way to respectfully and collectively express their wishes and frustrations regarding finishing their senior year during a global pandemic.

We know this has been a challenging few months and not what any of us wanted nor expected. It’s been filled with missed moments that are hard to replicate in the virtual world. We understand the disappointment and the desire for a gathering as soon as possible.

Please know that decisions about Commencement were not made in haste and were not taken lightly.

We agree that Commencement is a monumental event and that the graduates of Spring 2020 deserve their day. That’s why we have allocated resources to providing two events — the Virtual Commencement on May 16 and Fall Commencement on December 12.

We are planning three ceremonies on December 12 to accommodate any graduate and family member who wants to participate, with the first ceremony dedicated to Spring graduates.

We understand that many would prefer the in-person ceremony to be held this summer — and that is something we considered when making our decision. A summer event of this size is problematic for a number of reasons. The most important being that mass gatherings of this size in the summer are predicted to create a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

When commencement is held outside at Shawnee State, we usually have more than 4,000 people in attendance. We don’t want to plan for this size of an event knowing that the possibility of having to postpone it again is real and likely. The safety and health of our graduates and their families are the primary motivation in delaying in-person events of this magnitude to much later in the calendar year.

We agree with the Commencement Committee that our graduates and families deserve some sense of certainty in these uncertain times. They need to be able to count on a date and make plans.

We also agree that, while a virtual event can’t take the place of an in-person celebration, graduates deserve a celebration of their accomplishments at the completion of the semester. We’re doing our best to make the Virtual Commencement special.

These are not ideal times, but the Spring Class of 2020 has shown us that with creativity, positivity, and a good deal of “grit,” we can turn any situation into something inspiring.

We hope graduates and families will participate in both events with the full knowledge that Shawnee State University considers this class to be as extraordinary as the times we are living.


Dr. Jeff Bauer
SSU President

Tamara Sheets
SSU Registrar and Chair of the Commencement Committee

Ryan R. Schiesser
Student Government Association President