VLS postpones Commencement to August amid COVID-19 concerns

Dean Thomas McHenry attends the 2019 Commencement. Photo via VLS on Facebook.

By Forum Staff

June 4, 2020 update: The 2020 Commencement ceremony has been cancelled. The class of 2020 will be celebrated alongside the class of 2021 in May 2021.

Vermont Law School will postpone Commencement until August, amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus.

In an email Wednesday evening, Vice Dean for Students Beth McCormack stressed that the decision was a postponement—not a cancellation.

“There is no way that Dean [Shirley] Jefferson is letting a single one of you leave without receiving one of her famous graduation hugs, even if they need to be from 6 feet apart this year,” McCormack wrote.

“All of your faculty and staff want to join you and your families to celebrate your accomplishments. Commencement will be particularly joyful this year, as a chance for us all to reconnect in person as a community, and to celebrate the resilience each of has shown during these difficult days.”

McCormack asked students to complete a survey selecting either Aug. 1 or 8 (after the bar exam) as a makeup date. For bar eligibility and other purposes, the outgoing students’ graduation date would still be May 2020, she said.

VLS had already closed its physical campus until the end of the spring semester—five days before Commencement—and moved classes, meetings, and exams online. McCormack said the decision to close campus came in response to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control discouraging gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks.

The question of Commencement—previously scheduled within that eight-week period—loomed heavy for graduating students.

“On the bright side, there’s less of a chance of Commencement snow in August?” McCormack said.

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