Posted Monday, Sept. 19, 5:40 p.m. GW’s Commencement ceremony will not be held on the Ellipse this May, National Park Service and University officials said Monday.
The May 21 graduation ceremony will not be held on the historic site because it will be under construction through summer 2006. Tracy Schario, director of media relations, said GW “has been aware for quite some time that we may not have the potential to use the site.”
A letter was sent to GW informing it of a comprehensive irrigation system that will be installed on the Ellipse, located in front of the White House. University officials said they received the letter from the National Park Service Monday, after being told by The Hatchet that Park Service officials confirmed the site would not be available.
“As the National Park Service does with any of our other locations, we are responsible for the protection of these areas,” said William Line, communications director for the National Park Service. “The eastern half of the Ellipse is under construction, and the western side, where GW traditionally has the ceremony, will be under construction beginning this winter through the summer of 2006.”
Line added that construction was purposely done in phases to ensure the site would be closed for the least amount of time possible.
“We hope that GW will be understanding in realizing that their has been no major work on this site in 40 years and that it has to be done at some point,” Line said.
The University has been looking for months into alternate sites to for the ceremony, Schario said. Possible sites including the MCI Center, which has been the rain site in previous years; Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, the home of the Nationals, in Southeast D.C.; and “other locations on the National Mall.”
In recent years, the graduation ceremony has attracted more than 20,000 graduates and their friends and families to the Ellipse. The University heavily promotes the location of its graduation ceremony, and not being able to use the Ellipse this year will disappoint many seniors.
“The goal is to confirm an alternative location as quickly as possible,” Schario said. “We will make a decision keeping in consideration what makes GW Commencement special.” Schario said that while no official timeline has been made, the University hopes to have a location this fall.
Construction will be completed by the summer of 2006, Line said, and Commencement ceremonies will most likely be able to resume on the Ellipse in spring 2007.