Many GW students chose not to attend Opening Convocation in Lisner Auditorium Tuesday afternoon, despite the fact the University cancelled classes from 12 to 3 p.m.
Convocation takes place every fall semester, inaugurating the new academic year. It highlights multiple speakers, most of whom are GW professors. This year, the ceremony included an address by Helen Thomas, Shapiro Fellow in the School of Media and Public Affairs.
Many students said they did not attend Convocation because they had no idea the event even existed or they were unaware of the purpose of the ceremony. Students used this extra time to engage in other activities.
I have no idea what Convocation is all about, sophomore Morgan Stanley said. To me, it means not having one of my classes. So instead, I am going out to lunch with my friends.
Stanley said that she had no reason to attend an event the University did not present clearly to the students.
Other students agreed with Stanley. Many said they would have had more of an incentive to go to Lisner and watch if they had known what the ceremony was about and why it was important to attend.
The school should have a better way of informing the students about what Convocation is and do more to entice people to come, like games and raffles, senior Justin Emmer said.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg compared the Convocation ceremony to a starting gun that begins the academic year.
Trachtenberg said he understands some of the reasons why students choose not to attend the event.
GW students in particular lead very full lives, with jobs and internships outside of school, he said.
In addition to the alibis of watching TV, sleeping and participating in other leisurely activities, some students said they had more productive activities planned for the afternoon than Convocation.
I went to a microbiology lab that I had, senior Anita Mittal said. It was optional, but we have to learn some techniques and do three research papers this semester. I don’t really want to start falling behind or make it a habit of missing lab.
While he hopes attendance at future Convocations increases, Trachtenberg said he was impressed with the enthusiasm of those in the audience Tuesday.
He estimated that Lisner Auditorium, which holds 1,500 people, was about two-thirds full with students and faculty. Barbara Porter, director of Public Affairs, said the turnout was about 400 to 500 faculty and students.
I’m never satisfied unless everybody who could benefit from being there attends, Trachtenberg said. But you’re never going to get one hundred percent attendance unless you do these events at (Colonial Inauguration).
Offering a wide range of activities is the best way to get students interested in campus events, he said.
We have to put lots of opportunities on the menu, Trachtenberg said. Not everyone goes to Commencement, in fact, some people don’t even go to class.
-Kate Stepan contributed to this report.