Last May, at the Commencement ceremony, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg asked the crowd, “Is this a wonderful place to hold Commencement or what?” The crowd responded with a great roar of approval. Trachtenberg basked in the glow of the audience’s adulation. It was a moment straight out of Evita – even though the lives of many students and their parents were made much more difficult after the 6.9 percent tuition increase, at least for a few moments, he was loved. The honeymoon has long since been over.
A new committee has been formed to suggest new proposals for this year’s Commencement ceremonies. It is a simple question: the Ellipse or the MCI Center? Would graduates and their families rather experience the moment they have waited four years (and a hundred thousand dollars) to see with the White House and the Washington Monument as backdrops, or the Wizards logo? Anyone, even those who for years have lived under rocks, or deep inside Rice Hall, could answer that question.
The Commencement committee is comprised of 30 people. How many students are on this committee? Since GW students constantly are touted as the best and brightest, one would think that a large number of students would be members of the committee. So why is it that only four students are members?
When GW is trying to lure impressionable high school seniors here with pretty brochures, it makes a memorable promise: You will graduate on the Ellipse. What happened to that promise? Foggy Bottom residents argue that their hatred of the University is based on GW’s failure to live up to its promises. We usually say that they’re just bitter fogies, but maybe they’re on to something! GW promised current students a graduation ceremony on the Ellipse – the stuff of lifelong memories. Yet it seems that may be a hollow promise.
The reason 1995 graduates still seethe with anger is not because it rained on the day of their ceremony, but because no back-up plan existed. The cost of having a thorough back-up plan is cited as a reason for getting rid of the Ellipse ceremony altogether and simply holding Commencemnt at the MCI Center. But can you imagine our University president explaining the high cost of such a plan as the motivation for canceling the Ellipse ceremony to some 3,000 graduates and their families, most of whom have paid more than $100,000 for the privilege of attending GW? Neither can we.
Students want to continue holding Commencement on the Ellipse. It’s as simple as that. Establishing a committee to simply rubber-stamp an already-made decision, and then saying that the committee’s decision is representative of the entire student body, would be as flimsy and pathetic an excuse as “the dog ate my homework.”