University opts for virtual commencement instead of postponing ceremony

By William Seekamp | April 9, 2020 9:54pm

The University of Portland class of 2020 will be graduating through an online commencement ceremony. Photo illustration by Jennifer Ng. Photo edits by Brennan Crowder.


The University has announced that they plan to celebrate the class of 2020 in person at a later date.

The University of Portland has canceled in-person commencement and opted for a virtual ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a handful of colleges and universities have decided to postpone an in-person graduation, University President Fr. Mark Poorman said in an email to graduating seniors and graduate students that there were three reasons why the administration opted for a virtual commencement, which will take place on the originally scheduled date of May 3. 

The first reason is that it’s important that students receive their degree on the date they earned it as it could affect employment and graduate studies.

The second is that postponing it could make it difficult “for working students, students in graduate programs, students of modest financial means, and students from outside the Pacific Northwest to return to Portland to attend,” Poorman said.

The third reason is that UP can not guarantee that social restrictions related to COVID-19 will be relaxed by August or September.

The virtual commencement will be approximately 45 minutes long, 15 minutes of which will be reading aloud graduates' names with a photo displayed of them. The other 30 minutes will consist of remarks given by each dean, and then students of each college being asked to “stand” from where they are.

2020 graduates will also receive a commencement box which will include:

  • A cap & gown (hood for Masters/Doctoral students)
  • Stole of gratitude
  • Diploma cover
  • Commencement programs
  • Pint glass
  • Nurse pins

After announcing commencement would be virtual, the administration received backlash from many seniors who overwhelmingly preferred postponing commencement to doing it virtually. 

According to a poll conducted by the Associated Students of the University of Portland (ASUP), 2,193 out of 2,285 respondents — 705 of which were senior students — stated that they would prefer commencement to be postponed until a later date. Seventy-five respondents said they preferred commencement to be conducted virtually.
The administration is working to develop a commencement 2020 website that will serve as a center for frequently asked questions and social media posts related to commencement.

Funds originally allocated for commencement are most likely going to be redirected to the development of a website, distribution of commencement boxes and to cover lost revenue from COVID-19.

The administration has set up an email account,, designed to receive feedback and constructive criticism about commencement.

William Seekamp is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at