UND cancels summer commencement; summer semester to be online only

University officials maintain that social distancing is the best practice in helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

A UND graduate shows appreciation for her parents during commencement ceremonies in May, 2018. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND is canceling its summer commencement and will continue with online instruction only during summer semester, UND announced Tuesday, March 31.

The university had already canceled its spring commencement and has moved to remote instruction for the rest of the semester.

"We understand that such celebrations are important milestones in the lives of our students and their loved ones, and we are exploring alternate ways for the university to join graduates and families in celebrating this milestone," the university said in a statement Tuesday.

Meloney Linder, vice president for marketing and communications at UND, said summer classes shouldn't be affected too much, as about 80% of courses are already taught online during the summer semester.

It's unclear what that will mean for students in flight training courses. The university made the decision last week to suspend all hands-on flight training within the aviation department in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. There is no strict date yet on when flight operations will resume for students, Linder said.


University-sponsored summer events on campus, including, but not limited to, camps and new student orientation also have been canceled. The university says it is developing online alternatives for a number of these summer programs.

Other gatherings on campus will continue to follow restrictions announced for the spring semester, including no in-person meetings of 10 or more persons and keeping a physical distance of at least six feet from others. Distancing has proven to be the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19, the university said, noting it is making its decisions as it follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another role in the university's decision-making process was the recent confinement order from the state of North Dakota and the shelter-in-place announcement by the state of Minnesota.

"Given the vital importance of distancing in limiting the spread of the virus, any gathering on campus is strongly discouraged unless it is truly essential, and then only with strict adherence to the above restrictions," the university said.

Also Tuesday, the university announced that students may request satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade options toward their major requirements. The 30-credit limit will be suspended, as well as the restriction barring freshmen students from choosing this grading option. Students do not need to take any action to receive the standard letter grade.

The decision to allow satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading followed a recommendation by the University Senate Executive Committee, Academic Deans, Student Senate, Office of the Registrar, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. It was approved by interim UND President Joshua Wynne and will only apply to the spring semester.

“Under these extraordinary circumstances, it is imperative that we all work together, keeping the students’ best interests in mind," Jeff VanLooy, University Senate chair, said in a statement. "This decision was truly an act of shared governance, as representatives from all areas of the university were included in the process.”

The satisfactory/unsatisfactory option does not apply to graduate, law or medical students. Students can make the decision to change to S/U grading at any time up to 4:30 p.m. May 8. Students should first contact their advisers before making any decisions.

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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