A back-up plan was developed after lightning struck GW in 1995 and the Commencement ceremony was canceled.
The back-up plan insures graduates will experience a ceremony, regardless of the weather and has remained almost the same since the University first created it in 1996, Director of University Special Events Lynn Shipway wrote in a statement.
In previous years, if GW could not hold Commencement on the Ellipse, graduates, faculty and platform participants would congregate in the Smith Center. The University would give each graduate two tickets for his guests to view a live broadcast of the ceremony, which would be shown at various campus locations.
Commencement will be held on the Ellipse even if it rains, and attendees should be aware that the ground could be uneven, according to GW’s notice about the alternate plan.
Shipway wrote that Commencement could be canceled for a variety of reasons besides lightning storms.
The Ellipse ceremony could be in jeopardy if access to the Ellipse for setup is restricted, delayed or prohibited, she wrote.
The Ellipse is controlled by the U.S. Parks Service, and GW administrators must work with the Parks Service employees to plan Commencement.
“The Park Service has been wonderful to GW in helping us work around a variety of issues that change from year to year, but their responsibility is to protect the Ellipse so that it is available to everyone,” Shipway wrote. “The primary issue for all is the safety of everyone during setup, the event and break-down.”
The creation and implementation of the alternate plan costs the University extra money, Shipway wrote. But Shipway wrote that GW defrays the extra cost by planning to hold the alternative event on campus.
Shipway wrote in her statement that she encourages attendees of the ceremony to “be prepared for changes in the weather.”
The University will offer information regarding the status of Commencement events beginning May 10 at (202) 994-5050. Broadcasters will announce changes to the plan on WTOP (1500 AM) and WMAL (630 AM).