This message was shared with the students, faculty, and staff of the 10-campus University of Hawaiʻi system on March 19, 2020.

Aloha University of Hawaiʻi ʻOhana,

It is with a heavy heart that I come to you with this announcement. After discussions with leadership at the campuses and system level, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all traditional commencement ceremonies at UH’s 10 campuses.

This decision has been the result of many hard conversations. Commencement is one of the most time-honored traditions in our society, and it is one of the most highly anticipated celebrations throughout our university system for students, their families and friends. Commencement unites us across age, gender, ethnicity and personal background. Each year, our UH ʻohana looks forward to sharing in one of the most significant milestones in our students’ lives. It marks the end of one period of our lives and the beginning of the next. For our faculty and staff, it serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of the work we do in collaboration with students. We share in your disappointment that this unprecedented health crisis has robbed everyone of this moment.

To our UH Community, I encourage you to think of this moment as delayed, and not a loss. Students who would have walked in this semester’s ceremony will have the opportunity to participate when in-person commencement resumes. Our campuses have already demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness, and may consider postponing ceremonies to a future date or creating alternatives to the traditional ceremonies. Our community is strong, and we will come through this together.

It cannot be overstated that, even in the midst of this present crisis, every student who graduates this semester should be very proud of everything that they have accomplished. Nothing should eclipse the feelings of well-earned pride of our graduates and everyone who has worked hard to help them achieve this important goal.

This period of time has been turbulent to say the least. I cannot think of a similar time in my life that saw such wide-spread trauma. While it is sure to take some time to recover, I truly believe that we will be able to come out of this stronger and more resilient. I know the strength and aloha our community has for one another is boundless. I wish you and your loved ones peace and good health.

E mālama pono,
David Lassner
University of Hawaiʻi President