Class of 2020 commencement ceremony cancelled again

Commencement for the Class of 2020 has been cancelled due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Crawford County.

Commencement was scheduled to take place on May 9. In an email to the campus community on March 17, President Hilary Link made the announcement that Commencement was postponed until further notice. 

“This decision was based on the CDC recommendation that, during the next eight weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the (United States),” Link said. “We understand that this necessary postponement will come as a tremendous disappointment to our graduating seniors, and we are firmly committed to celebrating the Class of 2020 and their achievements at a later date.”

On May 9, the senior class received a congratulatory email from the college. 

The email read, “On behalf of (Link), (Provost and Dean of College Ron Cole), the faculty, administration, staff, and (the Board of Trustees) of Allegheny College, congratulations to you on your Commencement day!! You should be proud of your accomplishments, and we are delighted to welcome you to the community of Allegheny College alumni. We wish that we were getting ready for Commencement with you, and we look forward to offering our congratulations in person when circumstances allow.” 

The email featured a one minute and thirty-eight second video about the Class of 2020. The video featured a voiceover from Link. 

“Today we celebrate you and your Allegheny journey,” Link said. “(We celebrate) your resolve, your creativity — the mark you have made. We will be honored to call you a graduate of Allegheny College … Welcome to the Gator alumni family.”

The video featured aspects of the college campus, a cameo from Link and a note that was personalized to the individual.

In an email to the Class of 2020 from Link on April 2, the college announced plans for a modified commencement due to the inability to hold the ceremony on May 9. Commencement was scheduled to take place on Sunday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on the Bicentennial Plaza outside Bentley Hall. Rehearsal was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. that morning. The college prefaced that the plan for Commencement was contingent upon the weather and the global situation with COVID-19.  

“My colleagues and I are determined to celebrate you and your amazing contributions to the College, the local community, and the world,” wrote Link. “We have therefore begun planning a Commencement ceremony that will allow us to do so in a way that is both festive and focused entirely on you.”

Immediately following the ceremony, the college planned to host an all-campus reception in honor of the graduates. Link acknowledged that while the college is unable to completely recreate the traditional Senior Week, they are planning a condensed version leading up to the ceremony. The condensed Senior Week plan included a Senior Gala with a champagne toast, Taste of Meadville/Comp Burning and a Tour of Meadville with the seniors’ favorite attractions. 

Commencement was intended to coincide with Blue & Gold Weekend, which was planned to have events such as a football game with a Seniors-only tailgate sponsored by the college as well as department receptions. 

“On that day (Oct. 25), the entire focus will be on you, your class, your accomplishments, your families and friends, your memories, your friendships, your official farewell to Allegheny,” wrote Link in the email on April 2.

Link mentioned that the college intended to mail diplomas by the week of Monday, May 18. Official transcripts showing a student’s degree and graduation date were available that day as well.

The Commencement ceremony planned for Oct. 25 was cancelled on Oct. 7. The ceremony was rescheduled for Nov. 22.  

“We are committed to celebrating you in-person at some point, and in some way,” the Oct. 7 update read. “(Link) has been adamant about that in her directions to us all.” 

In an update to the campus community from Dean of Curriculum and College Registrar Ian Binnington and Director of Conference & Event Services Lynn McManness-Harlan, on Nov. 11, via the Commencement webpage, the college announced that Commencement had once again been cancelled until further notice. 

“When we met with your ASG class officers early in the planning process, they made it very clear on your behalf that health and safety was an overriding consideration, and we agreed that we should cancel the event if at any point we thought the risks outweigh the benefits,” they wrote. “Despite having a very good plan for your Commencement, this is the global situation in which we find ourselves, which has led to the difficult decision this morning to cancel.”

The college advised graduates to cancel travel or lodging arrangements. They also requested that students do not come back to campus on Nov. 22. The college announced that they will not proceed with any dates until 2021. 

“It is clear that we need the pandemic to abate before we make additional, concrete plans,” the update read. “We will be back in touch in the New Year, once we have a better sense of the world in the late spring and early summer.”