Dean of Arts & Sciences promises in-person ceremony in lieu of convocation

Postponing convocation deemed impossible by the university
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In an email sent to Arts & Science (A&S) undergraduate students, Dean of the Faculty of A&S Melanie A. Woodin promised prospective graduates that, in lieu of a traditional U of T convocation in June, the university will be organizing an “in-person ceremony” to recognize their efforts in completing their degrees. This announcement comes one day after U of T cancelled spring convocation due to social distancing efforts in response to COVID-19.

In a statement made to The Varsity, a university spokesperson confirmed that postponing convocation will not be possible “[g]iven the size of Convocation Hall and the fact that it is needed for lectures during the term.” They pointed to the fact that U of T’s convocation “includes 32 separate ceremonies for over 12,000 graduates and 34,000 guests” as a reason why convocation at a later date posed too many logistical challenges.

The Faculty of A&S have yet to decide when this replacement ceremony will take place and notes that it “may not look like the traditional U of T Convocation.”

However, Woodin acknowledged that both students “and [their] families have sacrificed a great deal to get [] to this major moment.” She wrote that she understands the desire to celebrate this accomplishment with students, professors, and the university at large.

As such, Woodin is committed to mark the graduation of A&S students leaving the university at the end of this semester with an event or events. “[T]his will be a special occasion,” she writes.

Woodin also clarified that the decision to cancel convocation was made in consultation with public health experts. In addition, a university spokesperson added that “[o]ther universities across North America such as UBC, the University of Michigan and McGill University have also called off their spring graduation ceremonies.” 

There is an online petition circulating that is calling on the university to postpone, instead of cancelling convocation. As of publication time, the petition has garnered just under 20,000 signatures.

Editor’s Note (March 27, 3:57pm): This article has been altered to include comment from the university and to update the number of signatures garnered by the online petition.

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