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OSU Says Commencement Will Be Postponed, Not Cancelled

Oregon State University

Oregon State University announced Thursday that its commencement ceremonies are officially on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 pandemic had already put a halt to on-campus activities for the spring semester. But graduation ceremonies weren’t scheduled until mid-June, leaving some hope that things would be back to normal by then.

But with no end in sight for social-distancing policies, the prospect of having a ceremony with thousands of people in attendance seemed increasingly slim.

The school decided to poll its graduating seniors to see what they’d prefer. Around two-thirds of those who responded said they’d still like a commencement ceremony, even if that was held much later in the year. A much smaller percentage of seniors favored either a virtual commencement or no ceremony at all. The results of the poll were similar at both the main campus in Corvallis, and the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend.

Oregon State University says it has never outright canceled a commencement in its 150-year history.

"This was not an easy decision to make,” OSU President Ed Ray said in a press release. "Yet, postponing commencement to a healthier time is the right choice and is strongly supported by our students."

Ray, who is retiring at the end of June, had been scheduled to speak at the June 13 ceremony in Corvallis. He was also scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate. The school did not announce whether Ray would still be the speaker at the re-scheduled ceremony, whenever that takes place. The school's new president, F. King Alexander, is set to start in his role on July 1.

Elsewhere in Oregon, the University of Oregon says it will not hold an in-person commencement ceremony at its usual time, and that a decision has not been made whether an in-person event would be scheduled later in the year.

Oregon's largest public university, Portland State, says it will hold its commencement ceremonies "virtually" on June 14, the day of its previously-scheduled in-person ceremony. The school says postponing the event until later was not a viable option due to the uncertainty over how long coronavirus restrictions will last. 

Lane Community College announced last month that its spring commencement ceremonies have been postponed, but the school has not released any additional details on its web page.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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