The University canceled all classes between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in an effort to boost sagging attendance at GW’s Opening Convocation, the official beginning of the academic year.
The Student Association and the Office of University Special Events decided to cancel classes to encourage students to attend Convocation, a historically under-attended event, officials said.
Convocation is traditionally organized and conducted by the administration, said SA President Carrie Potter. But low attendance and declining student interest led to a near-cancellation of last year’s ceremony.
“Last year the SA took Convocation on because (the University) wasn’t going to hold it,” Potter said. “The whole thing is kind of a good reminder as to why we’re really here at GW.”
The purpose of Convocation is to “try and get the GW community excited about the new academic year,” said Jim Hess, an administrator in GW’s special events office.
“The Convocation is supposed to generate excitement about the academic mission of the University,” Hess said. “It sounds trite, but academics are, after all, what a university is all about.”
Convocation is designed to emphasize to students that they have the administration’s full support in their academic pursuits, and to affirm that students still are involved in the educational process, Potter said.
The SA plans to create more student interest and involvement than in previous years by increasing the number of student groups that participate in the procession to Lisner Auditorium, where Convocation will be held, Potter said.
Potter said she hopes T-shirt and ice cream giveaways after the ceremony also will encourage students to attend.
Speakers at the ceremony include GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman and Potter. University Marshal Jill Kasle will oversee the event, Hess said.
The University marshal is responsible for conducting public academic ceremonies such as Convocation, Commencement and honorary degree presentations.
“(Convocation) is the bookend to Commencement. It’s really part of the ritual of academic life,” Kasle said. “Like the military and religion, universities are institutions that serve a specific purpose and have specific rituals. The idea of this ritual goes back hundreds of years.”