We commend the University’s decision to add the MCI Center as a backup to the Ellipse. This is a common-sense approach to an annual dilemma that has split students and administrators in the past. The steep $40,000 price tag is worth paying to finally having a workable back-up plan to the outdoor graduation.
According to a GW report, 1997’s Commencement cost about $580,000 to have at the Ellipse. Adding $40,000 to the total cost is a small price to pay for the peace of mind the MCI Center provides. Most impressively, GW says it will prevent passing on the extra expense to students by trimming other costs.
After last year’s wet ceremony, GW Vice President of Communications Mike Freedman began placing calls to MCI Center officials. The rain and drizzle came uncomfortably close to drenching happy graduates and guests. Keeping the MCI Center as an insurance policy against the weather will surely prevent a disaster such as in 1995, when a thunderstorm displaced 20,000 graduates and forced the University to hold a hastily-arranged ceremony in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.
More recently, national security concerns have called the Commencement on the Ellipse into question. Although this is beyond the University’s control, we expect GW to stand up for student wishes and demand an extraordinarily good reason for any requests to change the venue.
Hopefully Commencement will take place on the Ellipse, because it is clearly the students’ first choice. No other university can call the Ellipse the site of their Commencement. Without it, GW would lose its unique standing among Washington schools and become one of the crowd – another school that holds its graduation ceremony inside a stuffy gymnasium.
Many students flock to GW for its centralized location in the nation’s capital. Commencement on the Ellipse is the crowing component of that experience.
A move to the MCI Center will surely disappoint parents as much as their kids. After spending four years paying the University for higher education, graduation on the Ellipse is a priceless intangible that a basketball court cannot replace.