The announcement was made jointly by Tom Galligan, LSU's interim president, and Stacia Haynie, LSU's executive vice president & provost. They say the shift to a virtual-only commencement is based on the advice of public health experts seeking to limit post-Thanksgiving spread of the virus.
Students are already planning to take classes remotely during that period. Having a virtual fall commencement, they say, would "avoid bringing students back to campus after they have gone home and/or traveled to other areas."
"Therefore, we have made the difficult decision that the Dec. 18 commencement ceremony will be virtual," Galligan and Haynie write.
Details on the virtual ceremony, as well special photo studios that will pop up across campus in November and allow students to take cap-and-gown photos, will be shared with graduates soon.
Galligan and Haynie say they plan to hold a more traditional commencement ceremony for the December graduates, as well as graduates who did not get an in-person ceremony last May and August, sometime in spring 2021 "as soon as it is safe to do so."
"We want to celebrate with all our 2020 graduates in person, and we pledge to make the event a special day for graduates and their families," they write.
Another notable change: Mardi Gras and spring break have been reduced from multi-day holidays to just one day apiece, plus an added day off in March, so that the spring semester can end a week earlier.
"The traditional longer Mardi Gras break and spring break have been removed, but extra holidays have been added in March," according to the announcement.
Here are some of the notable calendar changes and scheduled holidays for the rest of the 2020-21 school year:
- Dec. 4 is the last day to drop fall classes, pushed back from previous drop deadline of Nov. 9.
- Dec. 18 fall commencement will no longer be in-person, but will instead be virtual.
- Jan. 11, first day of spring semester — unchanged.
- Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. day holiday.
- Feb. 16, Mardi Gras holiday.
- March 12, mid-semester break, day off.
- March 25, March break, day off.
- April 2, Good Friday, holiday.
- April 24, last day of class — previously May 1.
- April 26-May 1, finals.
- May 7-8, graduation.
Southern University officials say they are sticking to the current academic calendar.