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Penn plans to broadcast Commencement online from May 16-18 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Credit: Biruk Tibebe

Commencement for the Class of 2020 will be a virtual ceremony broadcast online May 18 due to coronavirus concerns. 

President Amy Gutmann wrote in an email to the Penn community Monday evening that the University cannot responsibly gather thousands of people to campus for Commencement and Alumni Weekend, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts. 

“Given the uncertainty of when it might again be safe to bring such large groups together, and the rapidly changing scale of the pandemic, we know that this change is the only responsible action we can take,” Gutmann wrote. 

The commencement events will be broadcasted on the same dates originally planned for the on-campus activities — May 16 to May 18.

The University is considering an on-campus celebration for the Class of 2020 to be held in fall 2020, Gutmann wrote. More details will be sent to seniors as they become clearer, the email read.

Gutmann wrote that Penn Alumni will also receive more details later this week from Alumni Relations about the reunion celebrations.

The University announced on Feb. 11 that award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will give the commencement speech at Penn’s graduation ceremony. Students praised the University's selection of Adichie, who is Penn's first Black female commencement speaker since 1978.

“I regret that this semester has been upended in so many ways. But in our lifetime the world has not faced a challenge as unique and complicated as the one that we currently confront,” Gutmann wrote. “We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to conclude the semester in a safe and positive way.”