June 23, 2020: COVID Update

Dear Members of the RISD Community,

On Monday I announced that RISD will reopen in the fall in a de-densified manner. Since then we have held five town halls for faculty, staff, students and parents. Our community is full of questions as we enter into uncharted territory. While our plan is robust and comprehensive, many details remain to be settled and the various task forces are busy working through their implementation. We will share decisions as soon as they are confirmed throughout the summer as you each make your plans for either returning to campus or continuing remote work or study. You may also view recordings of the Town Halls on the covid.risd.edu website as well as reference the FAQ, which we will be updating regularly.

One detail I am pleased to share today is how some of our most cherished milestone events will take place next academic year. As you know, we hoped to hold Commencement for the Class of 2020 during RISD Weekend in October. Unfortunately, given current health guidelines about public gatherings on a large scale along with our need to de-densify our campus, we have made the difficult decision to delay our in-person celebration of the Class of 2020 until the spring and offer other RISD Weekend events virtually, including potentially holding RISD Craft as an online event.

Our current plan is to hold a joint Commencement ceremony for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on June 5, 2021 in Providence. In the meantime, we hope to proceed with plans for in-person Grad and Senior shows over the fall as we remain committed to finding ways to exhibit our graduating students’ work on campus in addition to the online exhibits that have already garnered wonderful response. As soon as exhibition plans are finalized, we will share them with our graduating class.

While we are very disappointed to further delay this milestone moment for the Class of 2020, we have to respect health guidelines that recommend against bringing together such a large number of people from so many places in order to safeguard the health of our graduates, their families and our local community. We hope that by next spring the presence of the virus will have diminished significantly, that travel will be easier for our families, and that the promise of a vaccine may be a reality.

I am also pleased to announce that Reunions, which have traditionally been part of RISD Weekend in October, will move to early June to coincide with Commencement moving forward. I am excited by this change as it will allow us to introduce new traditions to connect students and alumni, offer new programs and use the occasion to welcome our new graduates into the Alumni Association. We look forward to welcoming back the Class of 2020 for their first reunion—which of course will also coincide with their official Commencement—and alumni with class years ending in 0, 1, 5 and 6.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to celebrating our graduates and building community among our alumni and parents while also keeping the RISD community and our surrounding communities safe and healthy. We look forward to the future when the pandemic will not be impacting all of our lives as it is currently. We will continue to update you as plans progress, but in the meantime, I hope that all of you are staying healthy and well.

Rosanne Somerson

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