Posted on Feb. 1 at 7:35 p.m.
The University’s Commencement Advisory Committee announced Friday that the final two venue options for this spring’s commencement ceremony were Elbel Field, located on South Campus, and the Diag, effectively ruling out Michigan Stadium as an option for the ceremony.
A letter released by University Provost Teresa Sullivan and Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper cited the difficulty and environmental impact of converting the Big House’s construction site into a safe venue, lack of emergency vehicle access and safety concerns of holding the ceremony while the Big House was under construction as reasons why the stadium was not a feasible option.
The letter also said there would be financial risks if the Big House’s construction schedule were interrupted and legal risks if the construction contract between the University and the contractor was altered to accommodate the ceremony.
The University would also run the risk of the stadium not being ready for this fall’s opening football game if construction were halted for the ceremony.
“In our judgment, the number and magnitude of risks, uncertainties, problems and costs associated with holding an event for 25,000 people in the midst of a major construction zone are simply too great,” the letter said.
The letter said the Commencement Advisory Committee chose Elbel Field, located at 336 Hill Street across from Canham Natatorium, and the Diag as finalists because both sites allow for a single ceremony that could be attended by all graduating students.
Both venues can also accommodate enough guest seating to meet the amount of guest tickets students wanted according to the results of last week’s survey, which gauged graduating students’ preferences for the ceremony.
If the ceremony were to be held at Elbel Field, graduates would receive eight tickets each, there would be a graduate procession that would begin at the U-M Coliseum and shuttles would be available from various locations in Ann Arbor.
If held on the Diag, graduates would receive six tickets each, there would also be a graduate procession and shuttles would also be available from various locations in the city.
Portable restrooms would have to be brought in for either site, the letter said.
A second survey will be sent to the graduating class Monday, Feb. 4 to gauge student preferences on which venue is preferred. The letter also said a decision would be announced by Feb. 12 on which venue would host the ceremony, with another student forum to take place the following day to discuss the decision.
LSA senior Jane Rho said she was disappointed that the Big House had been completely ruled out as an option, but nonetheless said she was thankful for the University’s efforts to incorporate student input into this latest decision.
“I appreciate that they came out and told us as soon as they knew,” Rho said. “I didn’t even know that Elbel Field was being considered, but I’m going to try to keep an open mind about this.”
LSA senior Justin Benson, vice president of LSA Student Government and a member of the advisory committee, said he was really excited about the two options available for the ceremony, and having been involved in the discussions that led to the ruling out of the Big House, said he understood why the stadium couldn’t be used.
“The (Commencement Advisory Committee) and the administration are really going to work hard to make sure these two locations get the look and feel this senior class deserves,” Benson said. “While I’m upset and disappointed, let’s move forward and make Elbel or the Diag a great situation.”
A copy of the letter can be found at: http://www.umich.edu/~gradinfo/spring/