Stony Brook University Cancels Commencement Ceremony

Stony Brook University Cancels Commencement Ceremony

SBU Community Will Look for Alternate Ways to Celebrate

Stony Brook University student toss their caps to celebrate their graduation in 2018. Photo by Greg Catalano

This year, Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University won’t see its usual sea of red caps and gowns.

SBU Interim President Michael Bernstein announced April 2 on SBU’s YouTube page that the university will not be able to hold its spring commencement ceremony in person May 22.

He said the decision was a difficult one that was made “in a deliberate and careful way.” Bernstein added that input from medical experts and the current guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the governor’s office were taken into consideration.

“Our choice ensures the well-being of our community and loved ones,” he said.

Graduates will receive their formal diplomas within two months of their graduation date.

He said countless graduations are being reinvented countrywide.

“These unexpected and disheartening circumstances will not, of course, make these occasions any less significant nor less joyous,” he said. “The accomplishments we will celebrate on your behalf will always be real and vivid.”

Faculty, staff members and students, Bernstein said, are weighing different options as to how to celebrate with alternate ways, and the graduates will be brought together in a virtual way May 22.

“I am very sorry that your final semester at Stony Brook has been derailed by this tragic public health crisis,” he said. “And I want to thank all of you who in so many ways have supported our community as we confront this unprecedented emergency. It’s that very spirit for which your class — the Class of 2020 — will always be uniquely known.”

Muhammad Fithra Yoga started a petition on asking SBU to not cancel but postpone the spring commencement ceremony to the summer after the pandemic has passed.

“For us senior students graduating this spring, we all have been waiting for this special commencement of our class,” Yoga wrote on the petition page. “We understand that conducting commencement in May is not possible, however, we do not want a virtual commencement to be held.”

As of April 3, nearly 600 signed the petition. In 2019, more than 7,500 graduates, ranging between the ages of 18 and 72, joined the nearly 200,000 Seawolves worldwide as Stony Brook University celebrated its 59th commencement.

On April 1, the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University announced it would allow its senior medical students to graduate in early April. The move is to enable them to work at SBU hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic under the supervision of residents, fellows and attending physicians. The graduates will begin their residencies July 1 at the facilities they match with across the state and country.

The school held the medical student’s Match Day via Facebook Live last month. The university and 116 students were complying with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a press release from Stony Brook Medicine.

Each year medical students around the country look forward to Match Day, a national event where approximately 30,000 fourth-year students find out their residency assignments.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president of Health Sciences and dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine, joined in the celebration.

“You are an incredibly bright, energetic and accomplished group who will soon be called ‘doctor,’” he said during the Facebook Live event.