March 26, 2020

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

This spring break, I find myself saddled with a sadness and a sense of loss regarding the sudden changes our community is being asked to bear. The disappearance of our community and the realization that we will miss all the opportunities to spend time with our students, staff, and faculty this spring quarter is still difficult to accept. As Dilling and I walk alone through the picturesque pathways of our once bustling campus, we are now feeling the silence and the absence of the commotion that characterize discovery and learning. 

But we are also lifted by hope and the understanding that our community is dynamic, innovative, and compassionate, especially when facing a challenge. It is clear that much has already changed and that things will continue to change, but if we hold fast to our goals, we can achieve them, even if it means navigating frustrating detours or exploring unexpected new paths. 

Following Governor Newsom’s recent stay-at-home order and following consultation with students, faculty, and our academic deans, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our annual commencement ceremonies, which were scheduled to take place in June. 

Every year we eagerly await gathering for this time-honored tradition, and in light of this decision, we are committed to:

• Holding an in-person ceremony when it is safe to do so — welcoming all of our 2020 graduates and their families back to our campus so that we can celebrate their numerous accomplishments together.

• Holding a virtual ceremony on the second weekend of June that will allow us to recognize the achievements of our graduating students at the end of our spring quarter.

We know that this decision is a tremendous disappointment to our graduates, who for years have devoted themselves to reaching this milestone and have looked forward with great anticipation to the celebration that would mark their academic accomplishment. And we know it is just as disappointing to the families and friends who have supported our students in their scholarly endeavors, and for whom commencement represents a shared and equally important achievement. 

It is also a disappointment for us — the faculty and staff who have made the journeys of our students our own. We take pride in watching each and every graduate participate in all the pomp and circumstance of a commencement ceremony — walking across the stage in cap and gown as their names are read, to receive their diploma or to be hooded, and to be greeted by their faculty, mentors, and myself.    

While some may believe our situation will abate within a few months, the public health information we are receiving suggests the rapid and evolving nature of COVID-19 makes the risk to our community too great to allow large gatherings such as our UC Santa Barbara Commencement.

From our consultation with students and parents, and from the countless messages we have received, we are reminded just how important commencement is for our students and their families. It is just as important to us. Each of our graduates is special and carries a unique story of triumph. This is why we thought it necessary to share our current thinking with our community now, and to affirm our commitment to hosting an event on campus when the situation allows.

Thank you again for standing alongside us as we take steps to respond to this unprecedented situation. We look forward to the time when our campus life can return to the vibrant experience we’ve all come to expect and love at UC Santa Barbara.   


Henry T. Yang