Occidental’s 138th Commencement ceremony on May 17, 2020 has been postponed to a date to be decided.

April 3, 2020

To the Class of 2020:

Since we graduated our first class in 1893, there has been no academic tradition at Occidental more treasured or more enduring than Commencement. Each spring, rain or shine, peace or war, our community has gathered in Hillside Theater in the presence of family and friends to celebrate the academic and personal achievements of each senior class; the transformative power of an Oxy liberal arts education; and each new generation’s commitment to the public good.

Thus it is with the deepest regret that I write to tell you that Occidental’s 138th Commencement ceremony on May 17 must be postponed to a date to be decided. In light of the current open-ended state order barring all non-essential gatherings, the latest estimates of how long the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will persist, and our own commitment to protecting the health and safety of our community, postponement is the only responsible choice.

As to the question of what comes next, I want to assure you we will address this with the level of diligence and attention it deserves. No senior class in history has had to endure a mid-semester disruption of this magnitude. I know you hold dear the vision of walking across the stage to receive your diploma, of hearing your name announced as family and friends cheer, and of celebrating community and family at cultural grads. We want to provide that moment you’ve been working toward these past four years. Once the pandemic has passed, we will make sure that the Class of 2020 is appropriately celebrated in person, not just for its academic achievements but for its resilience and perseverance in the face of extraordinary adversity. 

Your voice matters. In the days ahead, we will be surveying the members of the Class of 2020 about a variety of Commencement options. We will also include student representatives along with faculty and staff as we expand our planning committee to focus on these new alternatives. I also want to assure you that virus or no virus, degrees will be duly conferred on every senior who has met all of their degree requirementsthe manner and timing of which will also be discussed by the committee.

This is not how any of us imagined the spring semester ending. I want you to know that everyoneincluding the board of trustees and our incoming president, Dr. Harry Elam Jr.share my commitment to honoring you as you deserve to be honored. I want you to know that we will continue to keep you informed and involved as we work our way through this, confident that we will find our way to the other side, together.

Please keep an eye out for the survey early next week, and in the meantime do not hesitate to email our Commencement Coordinator Laura Crescenzo at crescenzo@oxy.edu. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.

President Jonathan Veitch