Full Stanford Commencement and Senior Week Later in 2020

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Dear President Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Drell,


We, as members of the Stanford Class of 2020 and its close affiliates, want to thank you all for your leadership, poise, attentiveness, flexibility, urgency, and guidance throughout this unprecedented time that has required quick action amidst an uncertain trajectory. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected not only the members of our immediate Stanford community, but has also affected households, institutions, and businesses all over the world. We understand that these decisions are accompanied by enormous pressure as well as a plenitude of voices and reactions. We are beyond grateful for the steps the two of you and the rest of the administration have taken to safeguard the best interest of the broader Stanford community during this trying time.


We are writing this petition upon receiving the healthalerts.stanford.edu posting and email message from March 19, 2020 regarding the transfer of Spring Quarter classes to a completely online format, as well as the cancellation of Commencement in its traditional form. As you may understand, the Stanford Class of 2020 and its affiliates – including parents, guardians, close relatives, and friends – are deeply disappointed by this information. However, we understand the necessity of your decision. Given the uncertain timeline of the global pandemic, it may be difficult to promise a time to resume in-person instruction as students are now dispersed around the world, and the quick transition required to resume in-person instruction may prove too disruptive for the amount of time left at the end of the Spring Quarter. 


As the administration considers alternatives for the traditional Commencement weekend originally scheduled from June 11-14, 2020, members of the Class of 2020 and affiliates strongly request that you consider the following solution. We ask for the same traditional Commencement weekend to take place at a later date, preferably later in the summer between mid-August and mid-September if the severity of the global COVID-19 pandemic has diminished. We ask for a full schedule that replicates the traditional Commencement and Commencement-related activities. These activities include Senior Dinner on the Quad, Senior Class Day, and all traditional Commencement ceremonies. Additionally, members of the Class of 2020 ask, in light of the celebratory environment that the week before Commencement holds, to have other arranged social activities such as Senior Formal, Senior Nights, and Dorm Storms. We believe that this arrangement would bring the Class of 2020 as close as possible to the full closure that Commencement typically provides graduating seniors and their families. Further, we believe this solution would give the Class of 2020 the opportunity to end our Stanford careers on a significantly more positive note rather than a deeply disappointing one. 


Commencement is a unique rite of passage that all Stanford undergraduates have undertaken for over 125 years. The Class of 2020 deserves an arrangement that carries an equal significance to what Commencement has historically symbolized. Certain alternatives explored by other universities, such as a virtual commencement ceremony, would leave the Class of 2020 feeling deeply disillusioned and further disappointed with the end of our Stanford experience. 


We believe that postponing Commencement weekend would not only be emotionally fulfilling, but also logistically sound. If the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in the summer, Stanford’s relatively late start date compared to other schools would create a sufficiently large window to hold Commencement before the start of the school year in late September. Members of the Class of 2020 and their loved ones could travel to campus for Commencement weekend even if full-time positions and summer internships are in progress. We would also hope that employers would grant time off to celebrate this special and unique occasion. If students and their families face financial or logistical barriers to returning for Commencement, we would hope that the Financial Aid Office, Stanford Alumni Association, or other relevant entities could help subsidize related expenses. Because campus and its surroundings are relatively quiet during the summer months, the influx of visitors for Commencement weekend could provide a deeply needed stimulus to the local economy that would serve as a needed boost for local businesses currently facing difficult financial situations. For example, hotels and restaurants would be more likely to have more space for graduating seniors and their loved ones. Lastly, having a full Commencement weekend would allow the Class of 2020 to rekindle the class and school spirit that has been dampened by the turmoil of the past few weeks – the same spirit that will fuel our involvement in reunions and alumni engagement in the future.


In summary, we believe that postponing Commencement-related activities to a later date will provide the emotional closure and celebratory conclusion that the Class of 2020 so thoroughly deserves, and addresses the logistical issues that the administration currently faces in planning Commencement weekend. We sincerely hope that you strongly consider this solution. Furthermore, we urge you to make your decision in direct consultation with the Class of 2020 and our loved ones. Thank you all again for expertly guiding the Stanford community through this unprecedentedly challenging moment. We wish you, your families, and your loved ones health, safety, and warm thoughts in these turbulent times.