The Ellipse tradition

The 30-member Commencement Committee will recommend a venue for this year’s ceremony Friday morning. While the contents of its report remain to be seen, what it should say is simple. Students overwhelmingly support Commencement on the Ellipse – and that’s where it should be.

Students consistently have said the Ellipse is the ideal setting to culminate several years’ work and tens of thousands of dollars in bills, loans, mortgage refinancing, etc. For the parents and students who worked untold hours, days and years to make possible an education that costs more than $100,000 – and students who made Washington their own – Commencement in the shadow of the White House and Washington Monument is fitting tribute.

While the cost of an Ellipse ceremony may exceed that of Commencement at the MCI Center, so too will memories of the day on the Ellipse outstride the possibilities of the MCI Center. Center court is no substitute for the center of American political power.

In a GW Hatchet poll conducted last month, students overwhelmingly wanted to keep the Ellipse tradition. These same students one day will (if not derailed by bankruptcy) donate funds as GW alumni. They will receive mass mailings urging their contribution to a variety of new fund drives. Will their decision to contribute be boosted by fond memories of Commencement – or drained by an unwanted Commencement venue that culminated an academic career filled with bureaucratic frustration?

Also, cutting Monumental Celebration and making students pay for their regalia are options not to be accepted unquestioningly in students’ fervor to keep Commencement on the Ellipse. GW students already have paid the bill for a special Commencement weekend. It is up administrators to budget funds appropriately.

We are a school desperate for tradition. We have a bronze hippo as a pseudo-mascot. Professors Gate is a homage to similar gates on Ivy League campuses. Residence hall names are changed to honor individuals connected to our school’s namesake. The search for a legacy is never-ending.

Commencement ceremonies on the Ellipse are a tradition no other school can claim.

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