AU moves December commencement online due to coronavirus spread

Summer and fall graduates will have a virtual ceremony on Dec. 13

AU moves December commencement online due to coronavirus spread
Cherry blossoms in bloom on an empty campus.

American University’s December commencement ceremony will be hosted online this semester, due to the spread of the coronavirus, President Sylvia Burwell announced in an email to the University community on Tuesday.

“While we hoped conditions would allow for a full in-person ceremony this December, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the continued limitation on the number of people that can gather for an event make that impossible,” Burwell wrote.

The Dec. 13 commencement ceremony will recognize summer and fall AU graduates. Spring 2020 graduates, whose commencement ceremony was also moved online, were previously offered the option to attend an in-person graduation in December.

The University still plans to host an in-person event for all 2020 graduates whenever it is safer for large crowds to gather, Burwell wrote.

During the May 2020 commencement ceremony, graduates’ names were listed on-screen to recognize their achievements, even though hundreds of people signed a petition to have graduates’ names read during the ceremony. The University’s commencement website says summer and fall graduates’ names will be listed online before the ceremony.

Burwell’s email also addressed the University’s ongoing budgetary struggle. In May, the University announced an anticipated $100 million revenue loss for the 2021 fiscal year because of the pandemic. In her Tuesday email, Burwell encouraged AU community members to send comments about the budget to

“My heart goes out to all the graduates – standing on the Bender Arena stage with you, shaking your hand for the first time as an American University graduate, is such a special moment,” Burwell wrote. “Please know how proud we are of your achievements and your perseverance.”

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