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Message from the President

Dear Class of 2020 graduate, 

I know that you have been eagerly awaiting news of your commencement celebration and regret the long and frustrating wait.

We had plans in place to hold the event late this month (Saturday, July 25), but I am writing today with the disappointing news that we have decided not to attempt a commencement this summer. The number of confirmed cases in Georgia and in Floyd County has risen steadily this last week, and we are no longer confident that we would be in stable position to hold the event in late July. We waited to make the decision as long as we could, but did not want to announce the event only to have to cancel it in the weeks to come.

In evaluating the next opportunities for a commencement ceremony, we recognize that it will be problematic to hold a ceremony anytime this fall. Once returning students are on campus for the fall, it will be necessary to limit access to visitors and we may well be prohibited from having large assemblies of any kind. We will be re-opening the campus to returning students in early and mid-August, so August also is not an opportune time for a commencement.

Earlier today I had a (virtual) meeting with a group of student leaders from the class of 2020. We discussed various options and decided to explore in more depth possible commencement dates in December and May. Both options allow the possibility of a more normal commencement ceremony as well as some creative enhancements to make the 2020 commencement special despite the wait. (The December date, however, may coincide with projected winter increases in COVID-19.) 

This group will work with Vice President Lindsey Taylor and Provost Mary Boyd in the next several weeks to develop descriptions of the December and May options. Later in July, we will schedule a virtual meeting open to anyone in the class who wants to discuss these options. After that, we will poll your class regarding its preferences. 

I know and regret that this amounts to yet another delay and disappointment for your class. I wish we could offer a solution of some other sort. 

The July option, which we are now cancelling, was to hold Commencement at State Mutual Stadium, home of the Rome Braves. The size of the stadium would have allowed us to practice social distancing while allowing families to sit together. It also provided excellent viewing, digital screen projection and sound capabilities. The capacity of the stadium is larger than any of our on-campus facilities, but social distancing would require us to limit your invited guests to three in addition to yourself (depending on how many graduates attended).

The Governor’s Executive Orders and local heath guidelines would also require us to screen all graduates and guests upon arrival at the stadium (screening questions and temperature checks) and require other risk mitigation measures as well (face coverings, staggered entrance and exit protocols and so on).

We all appreciate the need to be extra vigilant and careful in this time of uncertainty. Still, the number of measures needed to manage risk at present inhibit the ability to celebrate normally. That was another reason we decided against the July date. 

As one the 2020 graduates said on the call today, what we most want is the ability to celebrate as fully and normally as possible. We hope to make that wish a reality, and ask for your continued patience and goodwill as we strive to make that day possible. 

Steve Briggs

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