The Hatchet’s story on commencement leaves a misimpression that is causing some confusion (“Smith Center, not Verizon Center, will be Commencement backup site,” Oct. 26, p. 1). First and foremost, The George Washington University plans to hold commencement exercises outdoors on the National Mall, a special and unique venue for commencement that gives GW graduates and their families a graduation ceremony unlike any other in the nation. As in previous years, commencement will be held outdoors rain or shine. Commencement proceeds on the Mall unless The National Park Service deems it too dangerous because of high winds, lightning or another extreme situation. So we do need a back-up plan, but only as a precaution.
After commencement last May, we asked a university-wide committee to do a thorough review with an eye toward the experience for our graduates and their families, efficiency and cost-savings. This group found that the Verizon Center was problematic as a back-up site for two reasons: first, it was too expensive; second, it would not be available if a DC sports team made it to the play-offs. In the spirit of the Innovation Task Force, the committee recommended the development of a new back-up plan that would focus on university facilities instead of an expensive off-site venue.
We love commencement on the National Mall and are committed to this great George Washington University tradition. We will put in place a credible, on campus alternative plan that will serve as a back up in the unlikely event that we would not be able to celebrate on The Mall.
Vice President for External Relations