Students decry change in ESIA graduation

Commencement organizers’ recent announcement that the Elliott School of International Affair’s graduation will be held Friday night instead of Saturday has caused frustration among some graduating students and their families.

ESIA students who will graduate in May were notified of the change in the ceremony date via e-mail Jan. 28 by Edward McCord, ESIA assistant dean.

“In retrospect I wish we could have gotten this information out sooner to those students who simply assumed that the ceremony would be held on Saturday as in years past,” McCord said.

McCord said the change was made to benefit students. In the past, the Elliott School ceremony has been held in Lisner Auditorium, but each student could only invite two guests.

“The only way to allow graduating seniors more tickets to invite more guests was to move the ceremony to the Smith Center, which was only available on Friday,” said Donald Lehman, vice president of academic affairs. “We thought this was what the students would want.”

But ESIA senior Alan Mok said he thinks the date change presents a problem.

ESIA staff encourages students to make hotel accommodations and Commencement plans in advance, Mok said.

“I have family coming from out of the country who have already made arrangements based on all weekend ceremonies,” Mok said. “Why was I not notified until now?”

Mok said he was told by an adviser the move was finalized in November and initiated by ESIA Dean Harry Harding.

The decision to move the Elliott School’s recognition ceremony to Friday was finalized Oct. 15, Lehman said.

Lehman heads the Council of Deans, a committee of deans from each school, which was given the task this year of reassessing the organization of Commencement weekend.

The recommendation was then handled by the Office of University Special Events, under the auspices of Director Lynn Shipway. This year’s Commencement plans were available earlier than in past years, she said.

“The information has been available for months at the Commencement section of the GW Web site,” Shipway said. “If anyone would have come to me and asked, I would gladly have told them what I knew. This was not a big secret.”

But Mok said he was never told the information was posted on GW’s Web site.

McCord said University administrators told Elliott School staff members not to release any information about the ceremony’s date until after January.

“I think they were just concerned that plans could change, and students would then have the wrong information,” McCord said.

McCord said he believes in the future ESIA will hold the ceremony in the Smith Center on either Saturday or Sunday but only about once every three years.

University Marshal Jill Kasle, who was not part of the committee making the decision to change the graduation date, said she understands why it is necessary to schedule some school ceremonies on Friday.

“There is always going to be a problem when you have so many ceremonies to schedule, only a few appropriate facilities and a very short period of time,” Kasle said. “If all the school recognition ceremonies are held on the weekend, one little delay can be disastrous.”

Undergraduate Student Association Sen. Caity Leu (ESIA) said she understands the frustrations of graduating seniors and supports their objections to the way the change was handled. She said she plans to raise the issue at a future SA Senate meeting.

Mok said he already has sent a letter of protest to Harding’s office and wants to mobilize fellow students to protest the abrupt change of plans.

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