Monumental gala to stay

The University answered two question marks about graduation March 17, announcing that it will definitely hold Commencement on the National Mall and it will host Monumental in Union Station.

Earlier this month, the National Park Service offered GW the use of the Ellipse for Commencement after it had previously said the site would be unavailable due to construction. GW had been planning on holding Commencement on the Mall, and decided it would stick with those plans. Commencement will be held May 21.

Administrators said the ceremony on the Mall will cost GW more money than an Ellipse ceremony, but are not sure of exact figures yet. Reasons for the additional costs include the use of large video screens broadcasting the ceremony to the crowd, increased bus service from Foggy Bottom to the Mall and mandatory plastic ground covers for the grass.

The future of Monumental had been in question, as University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg had said previously the graduation party, which has had turnouts of 2,500 to 3,000 the last two years, may be cancelled to offset the higher costs associated with the Commencement’s Mall site.

“While we will not know final costs until after Commencement is over, we have estimated those additional costs could total up to $150,000,” said Michael Freedman, vice president for communications, in an e-mail.

After looking at various museums, on-campus locations and the possibility of not holding the event at all, administrators negotiated a new deal with Union Station for this year’s celebration that “significantly reduced our costs,” Freedman said.

The party will go forward at Union Station the night of May 20. The cost is $30 for students and $35 each for family and friends, a significant decrease from previous years’ parties. Last year, tickets cost $55 for students and $65 for guests. In 2004, the gala cost $60 for students and $70 for everyone else.

The University also announced that in the event of severe weather, the University hopes to use the Verizon Center, previously called the MCI Center, as an alternate Commencement site. Because the site’s availability is dependent on how far the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals advance in the playoffs, the site is not a definite backup as of now.

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