Officials at the University of Central Arkansas announced new plans for spring commencement to replace traditional ceremonies for graduating students.

President Houston Davis notified students, faculty and staff in an update on Friday.

“Though spring 2020 graduates will still have the opportunity to participate in summer 2020 commencement events on August 7 and 8, we are going to utilize social media and other platforms to celebrate our spring graduates at the end of this month,” Davis said.

What exactly will that look like?

Davis said during the week of April 27, graduates will receive a video message from him, the university provost, deans, and others to congratulate them on the “momentous occasion,” including the names of each graduate by college.

“These messages will also be incorporated into social media celebrations of the graduates’[s] accomplishments that can easily be shared with friends and family,” he added. “As in years past, all earned diplomas will be mailed to students at the completion of their degree requirements, along with the diploma cover, any earned university honors cords, and several other important items.”

He thanked the offices of the provost, registrar and marketing and communication for the work done to “quickly switch gears, create an alternative plan, and pull all the pieces together.”

During the email update, the university president also addressed online instruction, university operations and other “important details” and changes pertaining to the current COVID-19 climate:

To make registration easier and shorten delays, UCA is working to lift all nonfinancial registration holds except for those in regards to immunizations, academic standings and student conduct.

To alleviate financial strain on students and families, UCA is lifting some financial holds and allowing students to register who still owe up to 40 percent of spring semester balance.

Due to the shift to online instruction, the date to withdraw from courses has been extended from March 30 to April 15.

“I also want to share that the [UCA] Faculty Senate Executive Committee has put forth an official statement that affirms the position of the university regarding grading policy for the spring semester,” Davis said. “The committee supports the decision to maintain the current grading policy, while allowing faculty to offer some concessions and modifications to help students through this crisis.

“They implore faculty to continue to be compassionate in expectations, clear in communications with students, and patient in their understanding of students’[s] concerns and the disruptions to their lives.”

He said the committee has asked their faculty peers to continue exercising “flexibility and good judgment in their modifications to assignments, requirements, and assessments as appropriate for fulfilling programmatic and course-specific goals.”

“Thank you again for your patience and for all that you do daily to make UCA such an exceptional learning and living environment,” Davis said. “Our campus community is fortunate to have excellent faculty and staff who are working to help guide and support students during this difficult time, as well as dedicated students who are committed to their success and that of their peers.”

The president encouraged the campus community and more to find an opportunity this weekend to take a well-deserved break.

“I wish you and your families health and safety in the coming weeks,” Davis said.

Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at handrews@thecabin.net

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