SUNY Cortland Commencement Update

SUNY Cortland Commencement 2019. (Photo from Cortland Voice photo files).

SUNY Cortland President, Erik J. Bitterbaum recently announced the college's commencement plan for the class of 2020.

Here is the message that was sent out to all graduating students:

To the SUNY Cortland community,

The changes we have had to make in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have upended all of our lives, and most of us are looking forward to a day when we can return to our normal campus routines. That isn’t the case, however, for the Class of 2020. These seniors and graduate students are missing their final semester with special friends, campus traditions and university activities. Perhaps most disappointing of all, is that health and safety concerns prevent us from holding an on-campus commencement this year, at a time when recognizing our degree candidates’ accomplishments is more important than ever.

Sadly, there is no perfect solution. After much thought and discussion, we have developed a three-part approach that we hope will accommodate the varying needs of our future alumni, demonstrate our pride in their achievement and allow them to celebrate their success with friends and family:

Virtual Class of 2020 celebration

On May 16, the original weekend of this year’s Commencement ceremonies, I will post my video message to graduating students on SUNY Cortland’s Commencement page. Other video messages will follow in the days after that. From Tuesday, May 26, to Friday, May 29, SUNY Cortland will host an online recognition event with video presentations, interactive celebration activities for graduates and families and a listing of this year’s applicants for degrees. Details will be made available soon.

SUNY Cortland Class of 2020 commemorative mailing

All confirmed graduates will receive a packet in the mail this fall that includes their diploma cover (if purchased), a Class of 2020 celebration booklet, honors tassels for qualifying undergraduates and more.

Participation in spring 2021 on-campus Commencement

Class of 2020 graduates who would like to return to campus for a traditional commencement ceremony can participate in spring 2021. Given the uncertain course of the outbreak in New York State and the possibility of a possible resurgence of the disease in the fall, we felt that was the safest option.

We realize, however, that the full impact of the current crisis remains unknown, and not all new graduates will be willing or able to join us at Commencement 2021. That is why we are creating a series of virtual celebrations and urging all bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates to take advantage of it.

We know that nothing we do will replace the traditional commencement ceremony that many of our students have worked so hard to celebrate. But these are not traditional times. So much of what we have all experienced during the pandemic has forced us to adjust, modify our expectations and find creative ways to move forward. In that, the Class of 2020 is unlike any graduating class in the university’s history, and we fully expect they will go on to become a powerful and positive force in the world.

They are, after all, Red Dragon Strong.


All the best,


Erik J. Bitterbaum