READERS ASK: No In-Person Graduation at OSU?

Susan Daly Sisson asked, “Why isn’t OSU holding any on site graduations, especially with the lifted CDC guidelines? Other universities are holding ceremonies by adding multiple ceremonies and hosting them outside. Is OSU trying to save money because of losing money? What is the real reason?” 

Advocate reporter Lauren Zatkos looked into it. 

COVID-19 transmission rates finally appear to be slowing down both nationally and in Oregon as weekly case rates have been declining. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have loosened mask wearing restrictions for vaccinated individuals in public places, and family gatherings have similarly been given the green light. So while other colleges and Universities across the U.S. are planning in-person graduation ceremonies, why has Oregon State University decided to go virtual? 

On February 3, 2021, OSU announced commencement this year would be virtual due to uncertainties about the trajectory of the pandemic. The announcement can be read on the University’s Presidential Leadership webpage. Then-President F. King Alexander explained that due to the extensive planning it takes both OSU and the families of students to attend the in-person ceremonies each year, the University felt it needed to decide early-on if an in-person ceremony would be held. Because of the concerning public health crisis at the time, the decision to take the safest route and stay virtual was made.  

“Commencement in normal times at OSU is a very special event that many dozens of people work on for months to plan and put on,” Vice President Steve Clark told the Advocate via email, adding OSU will have approximately 6,000 students receiving Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees this year.  

“We have more than nine graduation events that are planned by colleges, departments and units, that are approved in keeping with current health guidelines… These events are not intended to be a substitute for Commencement, but to provide some recognition and celebration of graduating students,” Clark explained. 

Such celebrations include small, mostly outdoor gatherings of certain schools, colleges, and groups within the University of between 25 to a maximum of 120 people in attendance, and will range from just students and faculty to a limited number of family members. These events will still require social distancing.  

This is a weekly column seeking to answer local, state, and national questions for the residents of Benton County. If you would like to have one of our reporters look into something, please send your question to  

By: Lauren Zatkos