Guskiewicz said holding Commencement in August was a top choice for many seniors, but with classes hopefully resuming in the fall, UNC would not be ready to host a ceremony by then.
“We thought that to do something on a weekend in September, October or November would be perhaps better, so we’re looking at some dates across those months,” he said. “We’re also looking at the possibility of combining it with a Commencement in the spring of 2021.”
Safety is the top priority when considering when Commencement will be held, Guskiewicz said.
“Our goal would be that sometime within the next year we would host an on-campus celebration, with our first preference being to try to do something this coming fall,” he said.
Sunday’s watch party included messages from students’ family members from all over the country congratulating seniors on their accomplishments. Videos from Guskiewicz, men's basketball head coach Roy Williams and head football coach Mack Brown were also incorporated into the event.
“We decided that we still wanted to mark this day with something special for these graduates who deserve to be recognized for their many achievements,” Guskiewicz said.
Other graduation experiences and traditions were also replicated through the virtual watch party. UNC a capella groups the Clef Hangers and Harmonyx performed songs such as “Carolina in My Mind” and “Hark the Sound.”
The class of 1970 — which would have returned to Chapel Hill for Commencement weekend to mark its 50th anniversary — also gave messages of congratulations and encouragement to graduating seniors.
Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist and the scheduled Commencement speaker, spoke during the watch party about the unique period the class of 2020 and the world are living in.
“As time goes by and this difficult chapter recedes, you’re going to find that you wear it like a badge of honor,” Bruni said. “You’re going to realize that it has taught you things about your priorities, about your obligations, about uncertainty and your ability to respond to it.”
Class of 2020 graduate Anna Claire Riggins, a human development and family studies major, said she enjoyed the virtual watch party.
“While it was no substitute for an in-person Commencement, I was definitely impressed with what they put together,” Riggins said.
Riggins plans to leave for Spain in September to complete a program teaching English, so she said she is unsure if she would be able to attend a rescheduled Commencement.
“What’s tough about rescheduling the in-person ceremony is all the people who are not local, who will be around the nation, around the world,” Riggins said. “Ideally if I could make it, I would be there.”