Commencement and Reunion Weekend Cancelled amid COVID-19 Concerns

Bates proposes virtual programming alternatives and rescheduling both events



Class of 2019 Marshals Katharine Gaillard and Michael Driscal Jr. lead the procession of newly graduated seniors at Commencement last year.

Bates officially announced the cancellation of both Commencement and Reunion Weekend today as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in the U.S. While this move is not unexpected, it is a disappointment for the seniors, parents and alumni who were still holding out hope.  

Graduation was planned to be held May 31 and Reunion, June 12-14. Instead, President Clayton Spencer wrote to the Bates community that both events will be celebrated with virtual programming. Bates intends to hold an in-person celebration for the Class of 2020 following the 2020-21 academic year.

“I am heartbroken to convey this news, adding to the disappointments you have experienced this semester, as events beyond imagination have conspired to deprive you of the traditions students look forward to as the culmination of their four years at Bates,” President Spencer wrote in an open letter to the Class of 2020 today. 

She continued to write that the faculty and Board of Trustees will still vote for degrees in May, and seniors will graduate on May 31 as previously planned. A virtual graduation ceremony will be held on May 31 to commemorate the achievements of the Class of 2020.

Student Government President Ryan Lizanecz ‘20 has been a critical voice for the student body in the past month, spearheading the BCSG letter to the administration regarding students’ mental health, and voicing his personal concerns on Bates’ grading policy before it instituted the pass/fail option. 

“As a senior, this is extremely heartbreaking news to hear,” Lizanecz wrote to The Bates Student. “But as a member of the Bates community we have to make sacrifices for the greater good of our friends, families and world. Quite frankly, the Class of 2020 has been incredibly unlucky. But I want us to focus on all the great memories we have had with each other and hold them close to our hearts in these unprecedented times. We are quite the historic class.”

According to President Spencer’s email, further information on a virtual graduation ceremony will be available later this week.

Similar to Graduation for the Class of 2020, President Spencer wrote that Bates will host some virtual events for alumni to connect on June 12-13. The classes ending in -0 and -5 will also be invited back to campus at a later time to celebrate Reunion. There is no concrete information about when or how this might occur at this time.

“I wish very much that the situation were different, and that we could all look forward to being together on the Bates campus in June,” President Spencer wrote in a letter to alumni. “My hope is that when we do gather together, in person, it will be all the sweeter for this period of interruption and isolation.”

Larry Handerhan ’05, President of the Alumni Council, wrote to The Student about what Reunion has meant to him during his past 15 years as an alum. This summer would have been his third Reunion Weekend.

“It would have surprised me if you told me this as a student, but many of my favorite memories of Bates have come after graduation,” Handerhan said. “Reunion is at the top of that list. It is an incredible opportunity to reconnect with the people and places that make being a Bobcat so special – seeing the campus grow and change, having coffee with professors in the Den, meeting the children of your first-year dorm mates. My all-time favorite memory was the standing ovation our class gave to Commons staff during our 10 Year Class Dinner.”

As of today, the U.S. has seen more than 10,000 deaths related to COVID-19 and 357,000 confirmed cases. All but nine states have ordered official stay at home warnings at differing levels of severity. Travel within the country is strongly discouraged and it is unknown how much longer these restrictions and guidelines will be necessary. 

The coronavirus crisis is predicted by officials to peak in many areas of the country in the next two weeks, however it is expected to linger and impact day-to-day life for months to come.