Update on Final Exercises
May 14, 2021
To the University Community:
Earlier today, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidance, which states that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks. The Governor’s order takes effect at midnight tonight.
Based on the advice of University medical experts, we are pleased to inform you that the University will follow the advice of the CDC and the Governor and update our policy so that UVA community members who are fully vaccinated can now safely forego masks both indoors and outdoors.
This change in mask guidance does not apply to the UVA Health medical center, clinics, and other health-care settings where personnel should continue to follow existing University guidelines, requiring everyone to wear masks at all times in UVA Health locations.
People who are not yet fully vaccinated are still required to wear masks when they are around others, indoors or outdoors. All other University policies on physical distancing, gatherings, and prevalence testing remain in effect. We have updated University policy accordingly.
These changes are effective at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, May 15th, and will apply to the Final Exercises ceremonies for the Classes of 2020 and 2021, the first of which are this Sunday. Those who are planning to attend, and who have been fully vaccinated, do not need to wear masks. Physical distancing requirements and capacity limits on the Lawn and at Scott Stadium will remain in effect in accordance with the Governor’s guidance. University staff and RMC Ambassadors have been notified of these changes to our mask policy, as well as the continuing need to monitor and remind individuals to observe the physical distancing requirements.
These changes are a powerful example of the benefits of getting vaccinated, both for individuals and our community as a whole. If you have not yet made an appointment to get vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible.
It is important to remember that many people will continue to wear masks in various settings for the foreseeable future. Some have yet to get vaccinated, and others may simply feel more comfortable wearing a mask even after they’ve been fully vaccinated. Please continue to treat each other with respect and kindness as we take this next step forward together.
As vaccination rates continue to rise in Virginia and across the country, it is likely that federal and state authorities will continue to loosen public health measures. As they do, we will evaluate those changes and adapt them to the needs of our University community. We will also update you soon on additional details for the coming 2021-22 academic year, including our policy on vaccines for students, faculty, and staff.
Thank you, as always, for all the ways you’ve made this academic year as safe and rewarding as it has been for our entire community.
Chief Operating Officer
Dr. K. Craig Kent
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs
April 2, 2021
Dear Class of 2020,
In light of Governor Northam’s recently revised guidance on graduation ceremonies, I am thrilled to announce that we are now able to offer you the opportunity to attend a special in-person ceremony on May 16, 2021 dedicated to the Class of 2020.
If you’re able to make it to Charlottesville in May, you’ll have the opportunity to walk the Lawn and process to Scott Stadium for a ceremony. Each graduate will be permitted two guests in Scott Stadium. If you or your guests are not able to attend in person, all events will be livestreamed. You can find more information and stay up-to-date on details as they become available on the major events website.
This new opportunity comes in addition to plans for an early reunion-style social event during the Summer of 2022, which will also include an opportunity to walk the Lawn. I wholeheartedly welcome you to join us for both events.
I hope that this opportunity for a belated in-person graduation comes as welcome news to you and your families. It has been a challenging year, especially for your class, and I am looking forward to the chance to formally recognize—and rightfully celebrate—all you have accomplished.
Thank you for your patience as this planning has evolved. I look forward to greeting you on May 16 if you’re able to join us, and to celebrating with you in the summer of 2022 regardless.
March 3, 2021
Dear Members of the Class of 2020,
I hope this message finds you well. I am writing today with an update on your Final Exercises.
I am sorry to report that, given the ongoing challenges to safe travel and convenings posed by the pandemic, we are not going to be able to host a large event or ceremony for your Class this year. After consultation with the Finals 2020 Advisory Group, which includes student leaders from your class, we have decided to again postpone your in-person graduation activities to the Summer of 2022. I realize this news may come as another disappointment, and for that I am truly sorry.
That said, I am excited by what the Advisory Group is envisioning for 2022. This event, which will combine elements of Final Exercises and an early reunion, will provide an opportunity to walk the Lawn for those who wish to do so, as well as a chance to reconnect with classmates, friends, and faculty in meaningful ways. As updated information becomes available, it will be posted to the Finals 2020 website.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding, and I look forward to seeing you when we gather in 2022.
June 24, 2020
To the Class of 2020,
I hope this note finds you well, and that you are feeling rightfully proud to be graduates of the University of Virginia.
In April, I wrote to let you know about our plans to hold Final Exercises on the Lawn, either this fall or next spring, and that we would follow up with more details in June in order to give you plenty of time to make plans. Today, we can confirm that Final Exercises will be held on May 28-30, 2021--assuming, as always, that public health regulations by that point permit large gatherings.
We reached this decision for several reasons. First, the dates set aside in October for Final Exercises lined up with fall break for current UVA students. Last week we announced that undergraduate fall break will be canceled. We are doing this so that we can finish in-person instruction by Thanksgiving in order to minimize travel and possible transmission of the virus. This means that students will be on Grounds and in classes during the date set aside for Final Exercises, and it would be difficult to accommodate thousands of graduates and their families at the same time. Second, we have put in place public health measures for the fall—including social distancing requirements—that would make it hard to hold Final Exercises on the Lawn and to hold individual ceremonies across Grounds. Finally, while we still don’t know exactly what the fall will look like in terms of the progression of the virus, it seems quite unlikely that public health restrictions will allow for large gatherings by October.
For all of these reasons, we believe holding Final Exercises in the spring is the right choice. We know this may be disappointing news for some of you, but our primary goal—beyond keeping you and everyone on Grounds safe—is to give you and your families the celebration you deserve, and one that reflects the special place the Class of 2020 will always hold in the history of this university. Holding Final Exercises in May gives us the best chance to do that, and we’re already working on ways to make the weekend a meaningful and memorable one.
We will be sharing more information about Final Exercises as we get closer, and we look forward to seeing you on the Lawn next spring for what will be a truly one-of-a-kind celebration.
Friday, April 17, 2020
To the Class of 2020,
I write today with an update on a topic many of you have been wondering about: Final Exercises.
I know how much all of you were looking forward to Final Exercises and how disappointed many of you are that the ceremonies had to be moved. Graduation isn’t just a chance to walk the Lawn and get your diploma. It’s a time to say goodbye to your friends; to thank your families for the sacrifices they’ve made and the support they've provided; to let your professors know how much you appreciate them; to have one more bagel, go on one more hike, and sing the Good Old Song one more time. It’s an incredibly special moment—and one every graduate of the University should have a chance to experience.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard from many of you hoping that we would be able to hold Final Exercises on a different date. That’s been our hope, too, which is why we convened a committee made up of undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff to look at different options for Final Exercises. Following the committee’s recommendation, we are planning the following:
- We will hold a virtual ceremony on the original date of Final Exercises, May 16, 2020, to confer degrees. This will serve as the official end of the academic year and allow all those who earned their degrees to graduate on time. We are planning something memorable to mark the occasion, and will have more details to share soon.
- We will hold Final Exercises on the Lawn, either this fall or next spring. We are holding the weekend of October 9-11, 2020, which coincides with fall reading days. Because we do not yet know whether it will be safe to have a large gathering in October, we are also holding May 28-30, 2021 as a backup, which is the weekend after the Class of 2021 will walk the Lawn. Given the continued uncertainty about COVID-19, we recommend against making travel plans for October until we know more; we simply wanted you to know now the dates we are holding on our calendars so that you can hold them on yours. We will follow up with more definite information in June.
- Schools and departments are planning to hold their own in-person ceremonies as well, although details—including possible dates—are still being worked out. As more details become available, we will post them on the Class of 2020 Final Exercises website at http://www.virginia.edu/finals.
This year’s Final Exercises will be different in some respects from the ones we had originally planned, and had been looking forward to. But we will do everything we can to make these ceremonies a fitting end to your time at UVA. While every class at UVA is special, yours is truly unique—and these Final Exercises will be, too. I expect it will be one of the most joyful occasions the Lawn has ever seen, and a moment all of us will remember forever. I look forward to seeing you there.
James E. Ryan