Rhode Island School of Design cancels 2021 in-person commencement; moves ceremony online

RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN has canceled its 2021 in-person commencement and will hold a virtual ceremony on June 5. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island School of Design announced Monday that it is canceling its in-person commencement for the Class of 2021 and will hold virtual commencements for both the 2020 and 2021 classes later this year.

RISD cited the “steadily” rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and positivity rates in Rhode Island as the reason to switch to virtual ceremonies in lieu of an in-person commencement.

“Unfortunately, we do not have confidence that either the progression of the virus or vaccine distribution will adequately reduce the risk for in-person gatherings and therefore feel we are unable to responsibly move forward with our traditional in-person Commencement ceremony,” said RISD President Rosanne Somerson in a statement. “I know that after many years of hard work and sacrifice this will be disappointing news for our students and their families, and we are working hard to organize memorable events that acknowledge [their] significant achievements.”

RISD said it will host the 2021 commencement, honoring both classes, online June 5. The arts school also said that staff will continue to evaluate whether or not small in-person departmental gatherings can be held in June. All new alumni will be welcome back to RISD’s campus for RISD Weekend in October, the school said.

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James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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