BEMIDJI -- Commencement ceremonies at Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, originally set for May 8, “will not be held as scheduled,” President Faith Hensrud announced Thursday.

Additionally, all related commencement activities, such as the pre-commencement brunch, have also been called off.

“I recognize that this news will come as a tremendous disappointment, not only to those of you who may be graduating, but to your families and friends who have been waiting to share this moment with you,” Hensrud said in a release.

“This is an unprecedented decision at a time in which we are responding to a national emergency. During these trying times, one thing remains constant — our appreciation for and pride in all that our students have accomplished. We want to ensure that we acknowledge the achievements of our graduates. While we know that this decision will lead to disappointment, we will work directly with our students as conditions allow and collaborate on a way to celebrate their achievements.”

BSU and NTC are also limiting public access to their campuses, to protect the safety of employees required to perform their duties on campus, and due to direction from Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, who asked that employees to work from home in all possible circumstances.

Campus buildings will remain open to employees, but all building access will require a keycard.

In an email, Hensrud assured students residence halls will remain open for all students who need them. Students who chose to move out of on-campus housing will receive a partial refund.

Limited campus access will continue through at least March 30.

“As we respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, I assure you that Chancellor Malhotra and the Minnesota State system have made this decision with the highest regard for your health and safety as their absolute priority,” Hensrud said.

Earlier this week, Minnesota State announced it would be continuing all of its courses in alternative delivery methods when classes resume for the system on March 30. Alternate formats means any number of possible changes to how a class is held. For example, it could mean using technology in a different way or even a change in the number of times a class is held. Because some students do not have adequate access to technology, and some subjects cannot be taught in an online format, the college is actively exploring a range of alternatives.