ESIA hosts town hall meeting

Concerns about the scheduling changes for the Elliott School of International Affairs’ graduation ceremony were the topic when ESIA deans addressed a small group of students who turned out for a town meeting Wednesday.

The town meeting, which featured Dean Harry Harding and Associate Dean Edward McCord, also gave students a forum to voice their anxiety about other graduation issues, including the $100 University fee and Elliott School post-graduation celebration.

The Council of Deans scheduled the “Celebration of Student Achievement,” as the school’s graduation ceremony is officially known, for Friday, May 14 in the Smith Center. Although the decision was made Oct. 15 to change the event from its usual Saturday time slot, many students said they were not informed of the change until McCord sent an e-mail in late January.

Harding, who said he regrets any inconvenience the decision caused students, also said he was unclear about student’s major objections.

“The separate ceremony for Elliott School students only began four years ago,” Harding said. “What I don’t understand is on what history the assumption that the ceremony would be held on a weekend was based.”

Harding also stressed that the only way to hold the ceremony in the Smith Center was to have it on Friday this year. Otherwise, students likely could invite only two guests each.

“The first year I was dean, the ceremony was held in a place called George’s Tavern in the Marvin Center,” Harding said. “I don’t even think that place exists anymore.”

Harding said he was trying to demonstrate that the Elliott School’s ceremony has never been in the same place for more than two years in a row.

“I’ve heard people say the date has been changed,” Harding said. “Changed from what? There has never been a set date or place.”

The shared sentiment among students at the meeting was that the school should have given students as much notice as possible.

“Even if you weren’t sure, at least you could have let us know the change was a possibility,” an Elliott School graduate student said.

McCord said he wished he had done just that.

“Even though the University asks us not to publicize information about graduation until it is solidified, I still could have sent out some sort of warning,” McCord said.

Harding received virtually no response to his question about the graduation fee issue, on which he explained the Elliott School had no input.

“Personally, I think a Commencement fee should only be required in extreme situations,” Harding said. “It’s my feeling that the University charges the $100 fee to illustrate to students the cost of having the ceremony on the Ellipse.”

Harding said he understands that the National Park Service does not like holding such events on the Ellipse and therefore charges the University “an arm and a leg” to use the area.

Harding and McCord also clarified some questions about the Elliott School’s post-graduation celebration at the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue. They assured students that tickets are free and each student would be allowed three guests.

“My main question is have any of you been unable to alter plans that you have already made,” Harding said. “Are any of you in an unresolvable predicament?”

Only a couple of hands went up, but many students still were unsatisfied with the explanation they received.

“If it’s not your fault that my plans are messed up, then just tell me who is,” a student said. “I need someone to blame.”

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