After a month-long process that included online surveys, student forums and failed protests, all in reaction to the announcement that spring commencement wouldn’t be held at the Big House, University officials announced Friday that April’s graduation ceremony will be held on the Diag.

Brian Merlos

In an e-mail sent to graduating students, University Provost Teresa Sullivan and E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, said University President Mary Sue Coleman and University executive officers agreed to hold the ceremony on the Diag after the venue received 66 percent of the 3,002 votes cast in an online survey.

The decision came almost one month after University officials announced that the ceremony would take place at Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium rather than Michigan Stadium because of ongoing construction in the Big House.

Following the original announcement, angry calls, e-mails and letters from students and alumni pressured the University to reconsider its decision to move the ceremony off campus.

In response, University officials surveyed graduates on a range of issues related to commencement, including whether they would prefer to hold the event on campus and whether they were willing to take a cut in the number of tickets available to students to keep the event on campus.

Students surveyed favored keeping commencement on campus even if it meant they wouldn’t receive the eight tickets they would’ve received at Eastern Michigan.

But after the University’s Commencement Advisory Committee ruled out the Big House as a viable option more than a week ago, citing safety concerns and the possibility that the stadium wouldn’t be ready for first game of the upcoming football season, students were presented with Elbel Field or the Diag as their final two venue options.

Graduates will receive six tickets each for the ceremony, which takes place on April 26.

There will still be a graduate procession as part of the ceremony, which will begin at McDivitt-White Plaza between West Hall and East Hall. Shuttles to and from the event will also be available from locations throughout Ann Arbor.

LSA senior Justin Benson, vice president of LSA Student Government and a member of the Commencement Advisory Committee, said the committee’s recommendation to have commencement on the Diag was primarily based on the results of the latest student survey.

“Because the survey gave students the opportunity to voice their opinions, we made a decision that whatever the majority was on the survey would be the committee’s recommendation,” Benson said.

LSA senior Eric Portenga said the most encouraging aspect of the entire commencement situation was the amount of student input the University incorporated into each of its decisions regarding the ceremony’s venue.

The detailed rationale provided by University officials in support of each decision was something Portenga said he appreciated – especially when it came to deciding between the final two choices of Elbel Field and the Diag.

“I’m extremely happy they looked into every aspect for both of the final locations – number of tickets available, how visible the stage will be,” Portenga said. “I’m very glad the administration put that together so we were able to put ourselves at those locations and see what atmosphere looked like.”

Students can submit suggestions to the commencement planning committee via the University’s commencement website until Friday. There will also be another student forum on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Angell Hall Auditorium B to discuss the announcement.

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