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Williams College cancels June graduation, reunion events

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Williams College has joined a phalanx of educational institutions that have canceled iconic events, including graduation, due to the concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Both its annual commencement ceremony and college reunion — both typically set for June — have been canceled, according to a letter to the college community from college President Maud Mandel.

"Over the last few weeks, Williams has been assessing the question of whether or not to hold commencement and reunion, in light of the pandemic's progress and impact," Mandel wrote. "I have decided, reluctantly and with significant disappointment, that the college cannot safely hold a traditional in-person Williams commencement or reunion in June."

On March 11, Mandel announced that students would shift to remote learning beginning April 6 to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus on campus.

Both the 231st commencement, which had been set for June 7, and the Reunion Weekend, which was scheduled for the weekend of June 11, typically draw hundreds of guests from around the country and are significant drivers of economic activity in the Northern Berkshires.

Other colleges that have already canceled graduation plans include Yale, Rutgers, Stanford, UCLA and the University of Connecticut.

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In her letter, Mandel promised the graduating seniors that they would have their moment, and to figure what form that would take, the school is asking for the students' opinions before they decide what arrangements will work best.

"Seniors, while I am heartbroken that graduation cannot happen in the conventional way at the conventional time, I am determined that you will have your moment," Mandel wrote. "Rather than deciding for you what that should look like, my colleagues and I want to start by asking you. Following this message, you will receive an email with a questionnaire you can use to share your ideas. Your responses will help inform our thinking about the options."

She expressed a similar optimism that the class reunions will take a different form at another time.

"My heart goes out especially to the class of 1970, whose own senior spring term was canceled due to protests over the bombing of Cambodia, and who are now having their 50th reunion disrupted by a global pandemic," Mandel wrote. "I promise that we will find other ways to celebrate these milestone anniversaries, which are so important to alumni and college alike."

Mandel expressed regret over the cancellations, noting how she'll miss seeing "the joy of seniors who are celebrating the successful completion of their Williams education," as well as witnessing "the delight of parents and families, who have supported their students in remarkable ways."

She closed the letter on a note of optimism: "Together, we will craft celebrations befitting the great class of 2020 and all our reunion classes."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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