Baylor University today announced the cancellation of in-person graduation ceremonies honoring August 2020 graduates Aug. 14-15 due to a surge in cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 across Texas and the nation. In its place, the University will host a virtual ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 15, to honor its May and August graduates.
“Celebrating our graduates in person would have been a wonderful symbol of their resilience and our deep love and appreciation for them,” Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said. “Our Commencement planning team had been working diligently to create a safe, socially distanced ceremony in Baylor’s McLane Stadium, but now is not a time to be led by our hearts. Even with the best planning that followed all of the guidance from the CDC, state officials and our local public health experts, the risk is much too great. We must do the responsible thing and make the decision that protects the health and well-being of our students, their families, loved ones and friends, and our local community.”
McLennan County, where Waco is located, continues to report more than 150 new cases daily, while many areas across the state are considered national “hot spots” for COVID-19. Texas Governor Greg Abbott began rolling back re-opening guidelines, and the City of Waco has limited gatherings to groups of 10 or fewer in an active effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases.
“Together, we have to take steps now to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that we effectively begin the fall semester on Aug. 24,” Livingstone continued. “We awaited news that the increase in COVID-19 cases had subsided, but communities across the state and nation continue to face new challenges in the fight against the virus. Families who were planning to attend August Commencement need time to adjust their plans, and we couldn’t wait any longer to make this difficult decision.”
The University’s virtual graduation event will be hosted on Facebook Live beginning at 10 a.m. on Aug. 15 and will feature musical performances, remarks from academic leadership, and words of encouragement and hope from President Livingstone. Following the remarks, at approximately 10:45 a.m., the names of the August graduates will be presented on the video board in the south endzone of McLane Stadium and also broadcast as part of the Facebook Live event.
“Many of our May 2020 graduates also planned to participate in the August ceremony. I know I speak for the entire Baylor Family when I say we are heartbroken that all of these students who have worked incredibly hard through unprecedented obstacles will not be celebrated through the in-person ceremony we hoped for,” Livingstone said. “I look forward to the day when we can once again gather as a Baylor Family and celebrate our newest Baylor Alumni.”
Graduates who were initially scheduled to participate in either the May or August ceremonies are invited to participate in any future ceremony that fits their schedule. Information will be sent to graduates via email in the near future. To celebrate their achievement, graduates also will receive by mail a custom diploma presentation cover, a commemorative green and gold 2020 tassel and a printed keepsake program listing their names among those presented for graduation.
On June 25, Baylor announced revisions to the fall academic calendar that ends on-campus instruction before the Thanksgiving holiday and minimizes student travel and its attendant risk of COVID-19 spread. Class instruction and finals preparation and administration will be completed remotely. The shortened fall academic schedule also eliminates December Commencement ceremonies. The next in-person graduation ceremonies are expected to be held in May 2021.
Today’s announcement does not affect the revised commencement plans for Baylor’s School of Law, which will have two small ceremonies for graduates only at Waco Hall. Social distancing measures and face coverings will be required for this modified indoor event.