Monumental still on the chopping block

Commencement is less than three months away, but the University has not decided if Monumental, the annual graduation party held for seniors, will take place this year.

At the October 2005 Board of Trustees meeting, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he wanted to cancel Monumental to offset the increased cost of this year’s Commencement ceremony, which will likely take place on the National Mall instead of the Ellipse.

Jim Hess, executive director of University Events, said GW is still considering canceling Monumental because of its “substantial losses” each of the last two years. Hess would not say when a final decision on Monumental would be made and only said it would come “soon.”

In 2004, the University lost $75,000 on the event, and last year GW lost $100,000 on the event, Hess said. Despite polling students, who were “overwhelmingly in favor of the event,” the University still may decide to axe the Union Station party, Hess said.

“We lowered ticket prices, had group discounts and relaxed the dress code and still lost significant money (in 2005),” Hess said.

Last year tickets to the event were $55 for graduates and $65 for families at the door. Tickets could be preordered for $49.

Trachtenberg said in October that holding Commencement on the Mall would cost the University $150,000 more than it would if the event was held at its traditional location of the Ellipse, the grassy area in front of the White House.

While the National Park Service announced in September that the Ellipse would not be available for GW’s Commencement due to construction, last week Hess said the construction on the site had been postponed and that the Ellipse has been made available for GW’s use during Commencement in May.

Hess said it is “unlikely” the University will change its plans of holding the ceremony on a stretch of the Mall located between 4th Street and 7th Street in front of Capitol Hill. Commencement is set to take place on May 21 with former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara as the scheduled keynote speakers.

When asked about the possible cancellation of Monumental, some seniors said they didn’t even know the seniors-only event takes place. GW has not advertised the event at all, in marked contrast to previous years.

“If I had known about it, maybe I would be disappointed about the (possible) cancellation, but this is the first time I’ve heard about it,” senior Vladimir Tamashiro-Loma said.

Though not overly disappointed about Monumental’s possible cancellation, senior Jamie Mittin said “it would be nice to have the option” of attending.

Graduates are allowed to bring guests to the celebration, and usually around 2,500 to 3,000 people attend each year, Hess said. The record number of graduates and guests was in 2003, when 4,488 graduates and guests attended.

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