University officials are planning to hold Commencement on the National Mall for a second year.
“The current plan is to hold Commencement on the National Mall, and we are proceeding along those lines,” said Michael Freedman, vice president of Communications, in an e-mail.
Last year’s Commencement ceremony took place on the Mall due to planned construction on the Ellipse, GW’s previous Commencement site since 1992. Last March, the National Park Service informed GW that Commencement could take place on the Ellipse because construction was delayed, but GW continued with plans to hold Commencement on the Mall.
Spring construction is again scheduled to take place on the Ellipse, located on the south side of the White House, said Jim Hess, director of University Events.
“We expect construction to be taking place on the 17th Street side of the Ellipse . we feel best not to risk it,” Hess said.
Bill Line, media spokesperson of the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, said GW has submitted a permit application to host the ceremony on the Mall.
Freedman said plans are not finalized for the May 20 ceremony, but at this point administrators are planning on the event taking place on the National Mall.
“If the National Park Service tells us next month that the Ellipse will be completed and sparkling for May, we’ll consider moving back. But if we get that word three weeks before Commencement, it’s really too late to change gears,” Freedman said.
In case of inclement weather or any unforeseeable events that may force the ceremony to be moved from the Mall, GW is working on securing the Verizon Center as a back-up location, provided it is available. Planners will not know whether the center will be available until April or May, said Freedman.
There are 22 events that take place over Commencement weekend with the Sunday ceremony hosting about 20,000 guests. Last year, the move to the Mall cost the University an additional $150,000, bringing the total cost of the ceremony to about $500,000 for increased transportation needs, jumbo television screens and protective ground coverings. Freedman said he expects the costs to be similar this year.
Freedman and Hess also confirmed that Monumental Celebration will be held this year at Union Station, despite discussions last year about canceling the event. While Hess said he did not know the exact cost of tickets, he expected them to be similar if not the same as last year.
For the past two years, low ticket sales sparked debate over its cancelation, but last spring’s event for graduates and families sold out, with tickets costing $30 for students and $35 each for family and friends.