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University of Illinois cancels commencement ceremonies due to coronavirus worries

Graduating students at the state’s flagship Urbana-Champaign university and the Chicago and Springfield campuses will receive their diplomas in the mail this spring.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. File Photo.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.
Sun-Times file photo

This year’s commencement ceremonies at two downstate University of Illinois campuses and the University of Illinois at Chicago won’t take place as planned this spring, and possibly not at all, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Graduating students at the state’s flagship Urbana-Champaign university and the Chicago and Springfield campuses will receive their diplomas in the mail this spring, officials said Tuesday in an email to the nearly 90,000 students and staff at all three U. of I. campuses.

Leaders wrote in the email that “this is the outcome we hoped to avoid” for the May events, which in Urbana-Champaign’s case have drawn more than 20,000 people. They cited new Centers for Disease Control guidance that calls for canceling or postponing large gatherings for the next eight weeks, which would run up to within days of the ceremonies.

The universities are looking into possible alternatives for honoring their graduates, such as rescheduling ceremonies later into the summer or hosting virtual events and canceling the in-person ones altogether.

The U. of I. campuses last week joined a wave of universities and colleges across the country that announced they would halt face-to-face instruction amid concerns about the coronavirus.

All classes at the three universities will be remote by the time students return from spring break, which runs Saturday through March 22. University officials have not determined when in-person classes might resume.