St. Lawrence University postpones in-person commencement
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 6:10 am

CANTON — St. Lawrence University has postponed its in-person commencement that was slated for Sunday, May 17.

Instead, the college will hold a live stream that day to honor the Class of 2020. The decision was made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement came from SLU President William Fox in a letter to the campus community.

He said there are plans to hold an in-person celebration for the class at some point, but those details are not available now.

Fox also addressed questions from students and their families about refunds related to room and board, now that learning is being done remotely. He said each student would be given the appropriate refund at the end of the semester and each student’s specific case is handled. Fox said, “there is a not a one-size-fits-all answer.”

The full text of his letter is as follows:

“Dear Laurentian Friends,

“There are many messages a University president must deliver, yet today’s is among the most forbidding and personally wrenching in my eleven years at St. Lawrence.

“Since St. Lawrence’s founding 164 years ago, Laurentians have looked forward to the cadence of our treasured traditions each academic year. This global pandemic has upended many plans and forced us to make tough decisions that ensure the health and safety of our community. This is a promise we make to each student and family every day, and it’s a promise that has guided us in every difficult moment during this unfamiliar pattern of days.

“Late last week, New York State Governor Cuomo directed that all employers comply with 100% work-on-site reduction with defined exceptions for essential business functions. With this mandate and in an effort to provide as much time for students and families to plan for the remainder of the spring semester, we have decided not to wait until April 6. We are announcing several major decisions now. This information is posted on the University’s COVID-19 website.

“Remote Learning: We will continue with remote learning through the end of the semester, so students can complete coursework from off campus. Our faculty, Information Technology team, and other staff members have done significant work in a short amount of time creating a new environment for learning. Their efforts have been laudable and I also want to thank our students for their quick adaptation to the new normal.

“Commencement: We have decided to postpone the in-person Commencement celebrations scheduled for Sunday, May 17, 2020, and to schedule a live streamed event that day to honor the Class of 2020 on the day you planned to join the Laurentian alumni community. To each member of the Class of 2020: This is the least desirable outcome that any of us wanted, and we all share in your immense disappointment, and even your tears. There are now teams of people who will spend an incredible amount of time in the coming days and weeks reimagining the ways we can celebrate you and your numerous accomplishments appropriately and safely.

“More details on the virtual celebration for May will be coming soon.

“We will definitely find a time to invite you back to Canton to give cheer in person, and those plans will be shared at some point in the future.

“Room and Board Credits/Refunds: Many students and parents have inquired about University policy concerning partial refunds or credits related to room and board, given the transition to online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. These are unprecedented times, and we have focused our initial energy on student/faculty/staff safety and academic continuity.

“Due in large part to variances in financial aid awards, each family's situation is different, so there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. The University plans to provide refunds or credits for room and board charges, but will only be able to calculate the amount that will be credited to a student's account after the end of the semester. By then, we will be able to speak to each situation specifically. I appreciate your patience as we work through this process.

“Retrieving Belongings: The effect of the New York State Governor’s directive is that we cannot grant access and arrange for students to retrieve their belongings at this time, nor may we assist with packing and shipping. We know how important the items that you left behind are to you, but we don’t know how long this directive will remain in effect. We are developing a plan and we will be back in touch with you once we have additional information.

“Students Currently on Campus: Students still on campus have the choice to remain on campus for the duration of the Spring 2020 semester or return to their homes. There will be an individual request process to stay on campus longer for those students who are not able to return home this summer.

“Emergency Student Assistance Fund: Recognizing the financial hardship that is now being faced by many of our students, the University, with the support of generous donors, has established the Emergency Student Assistance Fund, which will help students with uncovered and unplanned expenses. For more information about applying to use the fund, please visit

“Reunion: Reunion Weekend, scheduled for May 28-31, 2020, has been cancelled. We will work to develop a plan to celebrate with our affinity and Reunion milestone classes at a later date.

“Laurentian Events: All on- and off-campus events are cancelled through June 1. This includes our upcoming Admitted Student Open Houses in April, our spring Admissions Visit Day on April 27, and the upcoming SLU Connect-Boston event, scheduled for May.

“International Summer Programs: All spring semester international short-term travel components, summer international internships, and summer international travel courses are cancelled.

“Other Summer Programs: We expect to maintain our summer online course offerings. We are in the process of evaluating other summer programs and will provide more details by April 1.

Even in times of personal sorrow, Laurentians persevere, show compassion, and support one another, as these are the common threads that bind up the bundle of our community. In this historic moment, St. Lawrence needs you to be the best Laurentian you can be. And so will your family, friends, neighbors, and the world.

With abiding hope, always,

Bill Fox