2015 graduation ceremony to be held across two days

A majority of survey respondents choose two-day option


In an email sent to the student body Wednesday morning, University President Teresa Sullivan announced that graduation for the Class of 2015 will take the form of two separate ceremonies held on the Lawn, a solution intended to address ongoing Rotunda construction which would restrict guest attendance.

“Graduation is the University’s most joyful event, as students, families, faculty, and staff gather to applaud the achievements of our graduating students,” Sullivan said in the email. “This new arrangement will allow students to preserve one of the most cherished and iconic experiences in higher education — Final Exercises on Thomas Jefferson’s historic Lawn.”

The decision was made after evaluating responses to a survey sent out to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students not graduating this spring. A majority — 51 percent — ranked the two-ceremony option as their first preference, while 29.9 percent preferred a single-day ceremony with reduced available seating. Holding the ceremony in Scott Stadium was the top pick of 19.2 percent of respondents.

University spokesperson McGregor McCance said the school would evaluate the success of next year’s ceremony to help determine if it would be a good option for 2016 and beyond.

“Final decisions about 2016 will likely be made later, and will certainly be informed by how the dual-ceremony approach for 2015 proceeds,” McCance said in an email. “We expect to learn a lot from the 2015 changes and have a clear idea after then about what works well and what other improvements might be considered.”

Sullivan said there was broad support for the two-day ceremony.

“Both undergraduate and graduate/professional students preferred the two-ceremony option, and this result was consistent across class years, schools, and even gender,” she said.

The survey yielded a 50 percent response rate. 7,181 students completed the survey in total — 6,372 of which were undergraduates and 809 of which were graduate and professional students.

Sullivan said the two-ceremony approach will maintain safety and increase available guest tickets.

“This two-ceremony arrangement will make the crowd sizes for each ceremony much smaller than the 25,000-plus crowd that currently attends Final Exercises, leading to improved safety, and it will also allow us to distribute more guest tickets for each graduating student,” she said.

McCance said the University is still determining how the exact Final Exercises schedule will look for next year, including whether there will be one or two commencement speakers.

A full breakdown of the voting can be read here.

Published April 30, 2014 in News

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