Ticket sales for the Monumental Celebration are down about 30 percent this year, which GW officials attributed to a rise in prices.
The annual celebration takes place in Union Station, which GW rents out and transforms into a dance floor with bands, DJs and balloon and caricature artists.
While officials needed to request more space in Union Station last year to accommodate a record-breaking crowd of 4,488 students and guests, the 2004 celebration will only draw between 2,500 and 3,000 people, said Jim Hess, director of University Events.
Hess attributed the drop in sales to a $10 increase in ticket price this year. Admission to the event costs $60 for graduates and $70 for guests.
Several seniors said they are not going to Monumental because of high prices that would necessitate paying hundreds of dollars for their family and friends to attend.
Katherine Merseth said price was a “factor” in her decision not to attend Monumental Celebration.
“We’ve paid GW so much money already,” Merseth said. “We can have our own party and have fun.”
Nora Delsol, another soon-to-be graduate, said most seniors think the event is “lame” and “expensive.”
“I think a lot of people don’t have the energy or the care to get all dressed up and go out,” Delsol said. “They’d rather just have a beer with their friends.”
Delsol said she thinks more students would attend the event if it were more like a nightclub or bar. Monumental, which is optional black tie, will feature King James and the Serfs of Swing as well as face painters and fortune tellers.
“Seniors – we’re lazy,” Delsol said. “We don’t want to get all dressed up.”
Senior Josh Hartman said he plans to attend the event, which he called a “tradition.”
“It’s a good-quality event,” Hartman said. “It’s one of the last times you get together with seniors, professors and everybody you’ve been with for the past four years.”
Hartman said he does not think the ticket price is inappropriate but said the University should offer discounts to seniors. He added that the majority of his friends will not be attending the celebration.
“It’s a great event,” he said. “I don’t see any reason not to go except for the price.”
GW raised prices in part to offset the loss it incurs each year from renting out Union Station, Hess said. Last year, the University lost $50,000 putting on the event. Hess said he is unsure how much GW will lose this year.
“Budget realities being what they are, we’re really trying to make it break even,” Hess said.
“This event has been substantially subsidized every year,” he added.
The University will make approximately $3 million in budget cuts next fiscal year, which begins July 1, to allocate more money to faculty salaries and new academic programs.
Hess said he does not envision holding Monumental in other locations, saying that the event “is becoming a Commencement tradition here at GW.” But he said he would be talking with students and staff about how to offset GW’s losses.
“It’s going to make us reevaluate what we’re doing,” Hess said. “I wouldn’t venture at this point what it would make us do.”