“Our goal has always been to give the Class of 2020 a meaningful graduation experience that recognizes their achievements and resilience,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “Although we were able to honor our graduates in a virtual Commencement ceremony last spring, we look forward to providing them with the traditional celebration they deserve in May 2021.”
Earlier this year, the university announced its intentions to host August graduation ceremonies following the postponement of all in-person May graduation events. Under the guidance of University Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU explored a number of options to host the August ceremonies in The Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. While an outdoor setting and added safety measures, including universal masking, would have provided a safer environment with respect to COVID-19, the extreme summer temperatures and the duration of the event would have increased heat-related health risks for graduates and their guests.
“After much deliberation, it has become clear that even though the event could be conducted safely if it were held outdoors, hosting such an event in August would simply not be an experience worthy of our graduates and those they love,” Harroz said. “The postponement of our in-person May Commencement was already one of the most difficult decisions we have had to make, and postponing it further is even harder. But to host an outdoor event during the hottest time of the year with mask requirements in place would be unfair to many, especially family members who would have to endure a lengthy ceremony in the summer heat.”
To help lessen the impact of the August heat, a shorter ceremony was considered but ultimately was ruled out, as it would have eliminated the reading of graduates’ names and their experience of crossing a graduation stage. Harroz noted that, in light of these realities, the best way to honor these graduates with the celebratory hallmarks of a traditional graduation would be to move the 2020 graduation ceremonies to May 2021, when OU will celebrate both the Classes of 2020 and 2021.
“Our reasoning for this is simple: The Class of 2020 and their loved ones deserve nothing short of the traditional OU Commencement experience,” Harroz said.
Bratzler explained that safety has been at the foundation of the university’s fall planning.
“Although the university has decided to move its August graduation ceremonies, I’m confident that because of the many health precautions that had been planned with respect to COVID-19, the event would have been conducted in an environment where the risk of spreading the virus would have been minimal,” Bratzler said.
As details develop for the May 2021 graduation ceremonies, the university will communicate any updates to the members of the Class of 2020.
About the University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit www.ou.edu.