Commencement Committee endorses Ellipse

book The University’s Commencement Committee recommended Friday to keep this year’s graduation on the Ellipse, but suggested significant changes to offset the cost.

The committee recommended canceling University financial support for Monumental Celebration, a Commencement gala held at Union Station.

Eliminating University funding would make it impossible to continue the celebration as past graduating classes have known it.

“It is not feasible to hold ticket prices to $30 to $35 and have the party that we have had,” said Lynn Shipway, director of University Special Events.

“It is not Monumental Celebration that anyone is against,” said Walter Bortz, vice president for administrative and information services. “It’s the jeopardizing of Commencement on the Ellipse for Monumental Celebration.”

John Jenkins, associate dean of the GW Law School and committee chair, said he hoped the Union Station party would be replaced with an event independent of University funds.

The committee also recommended changing the Commencement fee, currently paid only by students attending the ceremony, to a graduation fee charged to all students completing their degrees. This change, if enacted, would be implemented next year, and would increase the funds available for the Commencement Weekend budget.

Recommendations to increase the $50 fee to as much as $115 were halted until a decision is made on future venues.

Student Association President Kuyomars “Q” Golparvar said he felt the change to a graduation fee would increase participation in Commencement.

In addition, the committee recommended students pay for their own regalia this year – which would be available at the GW Bookstore and range from $16.25 for undergraduates to $32 for some graduate students.

“Both of those cuts are unfortunate, but we had to make them in order to keep Commencement on the Ellipse,” Golparvar said. “Those were the parameters we were given to work with.”

Jenkins said the MCI Center was not chosen because cost figures for holding Commencement there still were unavailable, and because the MCI Center never has housed an event like Commencement.

“We have a sense from the constituency that the Ellipse is a preferred venue because we don’t know more about the MCI Center,” Jenkins said. “The known is better than the unknown.”

“I wish the committee had the numbers for the MCI Center so we could make a recommendation for future Commencements,” Golparvar said.

Jenkins said he wants to see cost information before making venue recommendations for future years, and therefore, the committee did not recommend a venue for future Commencements.

Estimated prices for holding the event in the MCI Center were unavailable, said Michael Peller, executive director of Student and Academic Support Services Administrative Services.

The committee debated canceling the backup plan. But, after committee members took a five minute break to discuss the decision with students present, they chose to keep the backup plan.

The committee recommended the backup plan developed after the 1995 stormed-out Commencement, which has students attend a ceremony in the Smith Center while guests watch on television from other locations.

Committee recommendations will be sent to GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg by the end of this week, Jenkins said.

Trachtenberg, who is traveling, was unavailable for comment. He has said previously, however, that he expects to make final Commencement decisions a few weeks after receiving the report.

Jenkins said he believes Trachtenberg will follow the committee’s recommendations.

“With a unanimous recommendation from the committee he appointed, he’ll give this committee’s report credence and respect,” Jenkins said.

He said he would not place in his report a recommendation on whether future committees should be appointed to choose a venue for Commencement.

“I hope there is another committee that will review this next year,” Golparvar said.

“We can’t as a committee second-guess the administration as they’d want to address this issue in future years,” Jenkins said.

Golparvar said he was satisfied with the committee’s actions for this year. But he said he’d like to see increased funds given to Commencement Weekend.

“I think there is definitely money in the University’s overall budget that we can put toward those items in future years,” he added.

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