Update on Spring 2020 Commencement


Monday, March 30, 2020 - 2:31pm

Dear Rice Students and Families –

As you know, last week we restarted classes in a fully remote format, a first in the history of our university. Our campus has changed in other ways. Many buildings where students, faculty and staff would congregate (including Fondren Library and the Gibbs Recreation Center) are closed, faculty have greatly reduced their research activities in labs and other campus spaces, and the vast majority of our faculty and staff are working from home. This all reflects our common goal of preventing the spread of coronavirus within our community, and we hope that all of you are staying safe and taking steps to protect yourselves and your loved ones at this time.

We know that many of you are wondering about when our campus will resume normal operations and activities, and we very much wish we could answer this question. We are continually monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Houston, the United States and across the globe, and now that remote learning arrangements for the remainder of spring semester classes are settled, we are turning our attention more fully toward commencement, which is why we are writing today.

We announced earlier that we would decide by early or mid-April whether to postpone the scheduled commencement in May. Based on all available information, including the announcement yesterday that national social distancing guidelines would be extended to at least the end of April, we now do not believe there is a reasonable prospect of holding commencement on the original date in May. We are therefore announcing postponement now to avoid unnecessary stress around making plans (and to provide families plenty of time to cancel any travel arrangements). We know that this will be deeply disappointing to our graduating students and their families, who have worked for and anticipated the formal graduation ceremony for years. We want to emphasize in accordance with our earlier communications that we are not cancelling commencement, but rather are postponing our normal on campus ceremony until a later date.

As soon as this public health crisis has passed, we will announce and begin preparing for an on campus ceremony in our central quad to celebrate our Spring 2020 graduates. We do not know when that will be, but we will provide ample notice. In the meantime, we are forming a committee to design and launch an online commencement ceremony for all who will complete their degree requirements at the end of this semester. The online ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 16, and we will share details of this event in the weeks ahead. The names of all graduating students will be read online, but all students are also welcome to attend the on campus ceremony when that occurs.

It is our sincere hope that we can gather together in a remote format and in the spirit of celebration to cheer on our graduates with their family and friends. And we very much hope that later we will see you on campus to celebrate in person.

Wishing our best to you and your family,

David Leebron, President of Rice University
Seiichi Matsuda, Interim Provost and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies\
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates