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March 8 - To the Class of 2020: Commencement update and RSVP form

Dear Class of 2020,

We know that you were disappointed to learn via email on Feb. 26 that family members, friends and others who will not be part of the official Commencement ceremony will be unable to physically join you on campus during this important time.

Please know that this decision was not made lightly. We have been monitoring data, speaking with institutions that are similar in size and reviewing scenarios for logistically managing Commencement in ways that will ensure the safety of all involved. Our main goal has always been to provide you with an in-person experience that offers, to the greatest extent possible, the traditional oceanside Commencement Salve Regina has been known for. You deserve that.

Despite the fact that we will be outside in May, this pandemic continues to present challenges and restrictions for in-person gatherings of any kind, but especially for gatherings with guests who must travel from different states to Rhode Island.

The challenges involve numbers more so than space. If Rhode Island continues to see progress with its positivity rate and hospitalization rate, we anticipate restrictions on in-person gatherings being lifted slightly in April. These restrictions will expand to only 100 individuals indoors and 150 individuals outdoors, with social distancing included. Commencement has an average attendance of 5,000.

Stadium spaces and other options can still only support the total number allowed to gather, and a drive-through/drive-in Commencement would not provide you with the recognition you deserve as a Salve Regina graduate. The orchestration of such a ceremony would also require that it be held outside of campus. Again, our goal is to provide you with the opportunity to process and walk across the dais as you would have done last year. At this point, such an opportunity will also have to be coordinated into multiple smaller ceremonies - again based on the number allowed to gather. We are in the process of confirming these details to share with you at a later date.

We also recognize that plans can change at any point in time between now and May. We are setting a course of action at this moment that we believe provides the safest scenario for you, based on the data we have. We felt it was more merciful to be straightforward with the challenges we are facing than to overpromise what we may be capable of.

Should restrictions ease, we can pivot to add elements (and guests) to our planning more smoothly than if we had to minimize plans at the last minute. Our communications are designed to keep you in the loop and to be transparent about where Commencement stands at different stages between now and May. We did not want to postpone your in-person ceremony again and we certainly did not want to cancel it outright. We ask for your patience and understanding as we try to keep you informed along the way.

Here is what we know at this time:

  • Due to state restrictions on large gatherings, we cannot welcome guests other than degree recipients on campus. We will provide families with a virtual option.
  • Commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 are combined for both undergraduate degree recipients and graduate/doctoral degree recipients.
  • Due to the number of individuals allowed to gather in one location, we anticipate having to coordinate multiple ceremonies to accommodate the entire class. We are working that schedule out now.
  • Those individuals who were undergraduates in 2020 and are now graduate candidates in 2021 may choose to attend one or both celebrations on their scheduled dates.
  • Out of an abundance of caution for everyone’s safety and well-being, those participating in the ceremony will need to be tested prior to the ceremony itself. Testing procedures are still being finalized and we will communicate those at a later date.
  • On Saturday, May 15, we can safely offer the traditional Senior Week clambake on campus for our 2020 undergraduates by staging it at various times throughout the day.
  • Salve Regina is sadly unable to offer residence halls as a housing option upon your return to Newport. Because you have not been physically on campus for some time and therefore not part of a "campus pod," the congregant housing conditions of a residence hall would put you at greater risk for exposure from fellow travelers even with testing upon arrival. We have worked with our hotel partners to offer discounted rooms for you and your families.

We know that many of our 2020 undergraduates also wished to have a Commencement Ball. Presently, the more traditional format with dancing still falls outside COVID-19 protocols but, it was just announced that the ban on dancing may be lifted in April. Please complete the preliminary RSVP form and let us know if this event is something you would like us to pursue. Depending on location and the number interested, we may be able to provide a modified version at the Newport Marriott. What we will be able to do remains dependent not only on guidelines and safety protocols come May, but also on the number of attendees expected.

Please indicate whether or not you still plan to attend the ceremony on Sunday, May 16 and, if an undergraduate in 2020, the clambake on Saturday, May 15. This will inform our planning and enable us to provide more specific options for Saturday’s event. A full confirmation of your participation will be required by the end of April.

Regalia for undergraduates is available for purchase through the bookstore website. You will be asked for height, weight and degree. Please provide one of the following for degree: B.S., B.A. or B.A.S. While the cost of regalia is typically included in the undergraduate graduation fee - which is an administrative fee charged regardless of student participation in the ceremony - the Class of 2020 was already charged this fee and undergraduates were given a $100 credit toward regalia last May.

Regalia for graduate students will be available soon, and doctoral recipients who wish to rent regalia should email commencement@salve.edu.

We will continue to monitor conditions impacting our campus and we will continue to provide updated information as often as we can. Please check our Commencement website for the latest information as well.

Thank you again for your patience and understanding as we move forward in planning for a safe celebration of your achievements.

Commencement RSVP form