The Student Association passed a resolution unanimously Tuesday night demanding that the University continue to hold Commencement on the Ellipse.
GW has explored the possibility of moving the event to the MCI Center because the University does not reserve an indoor back-up space large enough to host the event in case of hazardous weather.
In case of life-threatening weather conditions, the ceremony would move to the Smith Center. Guests who do not fit would watch the ceremony on television screens in rooms across campus. In 1995, a lightning storm forced the University to move the Commencement to the Smith Center.
The SA resolution, sponsored by SA President Dave Burt, cites the Ellipse tradition as a unique GW promise to students and an essential part of attending college in D.C.
The student body of The George Washington University has strongly supported and is continuing to support efforts for this Commencement, and all future Commencements, to be held on the Ellipse, the resolution reads.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he sees no problem with complying with student wishes.
We’re pleased to host Commencement where it will get the maximum joy, Trachtenberg said.
The event would only be moved inside if National Park Services deemed conditions life threatening, Trachtenberg said.
Trachtenberg proposed to hold Commencement in the newly built MCI Center following the 1995 relocation.
The idea was met with vehement opposition by students. Student groups led the fight against the move indoors by gathering petitions and meeting with administrators to relay student wishes for a ceremony on the Ellipse, according to a Nov. 20, 1997 Hatchet article.
Trachtenberg and Burt agreed that rain should not cancel the ceremony.
If it’s just rain, everybody gets wet, the gowns shrink a little, Trachtenberg said.
Burt said students are willing to risk the possibility of inclement weather to graduate in the back yard of the White House.
If we’re afraid of lightning, then there’s a ban on one of the greatest GW traditions that exists, he said.
Some students said they agree with Burt.
We should take the chance, senior Chris Stirling said.
Proposed construction of a parking garage underneath the Ellipse could put the future of the Commencement ceremony in jeopardy.
Construction is scheduled to begin within the next five years, but the National Park Service is waiting for Congress to fund for the project, according to the NPS Web site.
Students said GW should explore other options if construction begins, including the National Mall.
It should be at somewhere more historic than a stadium, freshman Jeff Fanelli said.
Trachtenberg and Burt said the ceremony will likely move indoors to the MCI Center, which seats more than 20,000 people, when construction begins at the Ellipse. But as long as there is student support, the ceremonies will return outdoors when construction on the Ellipse is completed, Trachtenberg said.
GW students love construction, Burt said. They might want to have it next to the big crane.