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Montana University System cancels graduation events; UM seeks other ideas

The Montana University System on Friday canceled all in-person commencement ceremonies this spring, making official a move that was expected as the COVID-19 pandemic plays on.

Montana is expected to see the virus peak in late April, though it will take months for it to wind down, with potential deaths not peaking until August.

Graduation was set for May 9.

“We as a University share in the disappointment of our graduates and their families,” University of Montana President Seth Bodnar said in a statement. “We understand this is not the way any of us wanted to mark such a momentous occasion. However we will ensure our graduates are honored in ways that represent the Grizzly spirit.”

Students who already rented graduation regalia will receive full refunds and diplomas will be mailed to the address on each student’s graduation application.

On Friday, Bodnar said UM is developing options to help graduates and their families “celebrate now and later in Grizzly style.” Graduates will be surveyed for their input and ideas on making up for canceled graduation.

“We appreciate the university giving students an opportunity to provide feedback for how we can try making up for the loss of Commencement,” said Abbigail Belcher, president of the Associated Students of UM and herself a graduating senior. “We are in a time of disruption, and I think what we come up with might be especially memorable and meaningful for our class.”