Students who went to the Diag yesterday afternoon for a planned rally in favor of moving spring commencement back to Michigan Stadium might have been disappointed. As it turned out, the rally was a cluster of maize-clad students huddled around a medium-sized banner.

Brian Merlos
Only about 20 students attended a rally on the Diag yesterday to pressure University officials to move the spring commencement ceremony back into the Big House. (ROB MIGRIN/Daily)

The lackluster display of support marked the second attempt in recent weeks to organize a large campus rally for students to push University officials to move the graduation back into the Big House. Neither turned out quite as planned.

The first rally was planned for Jan. 17 in Regents Plaza but was canceled because of bad weather.

Earlier this month, University officials announced that the ceremony would be held in Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium because of ongoing construction at Michigan Stadium. About two weeks ago, administrators said they would reconsider moving the commencement back to Michigan Stadium or other campus venues.

About 20 students gathered for a half hour yesterday in the southwest corner of the Diag. Leaders of Bridge the Gap, an organization working to ease tension between Arab and Jewish students, had planned to march from the Diag to the Fleming Administration Building and sing “The Victors” in an effort to persuade University officials to move commencement to Michigan Stadium. The low turnout disappointed event organizers.

LSA senior Megan Mirtenbaum, co-president of Bridge the Gap, said she expected more to come out to yesterday’s rally.

“There were over 200 confirmed guests on Facebook, for what that’s worth,” she said.

At one point during the rally, Mirtenbaum looked around and asked the small crowd if anyone knew people they could call to convince them to come. No one did.

The low turnout raised speculation about why so few showed up to the event.

LSA senior Jane Rho, creator of the Facebook group “Petition To Keep Spring Graduation 2008 At The Big House” – which has more than 1,000 members – said the rally’s low turnout was the result of bad planning.

“It wasn’t publicized enough and it was in the middle of classes,” said Rho, who didn’t attend the event. “Look at the surveys and feedback and how many students showed up to meet the administration – that was a good representation of how we were voicing our opinions.”

Ross School of Business senior Fouad Hassan attributed the lack of turnout to an article in yesterday’s edition of The Michigan Daily that said Eastern Michigan University had been ruled out as a possible venue for commencement.

Hassan said some students may have been content with the decision to keep the ceremony on campus.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “It’s kind of already achieved the purpose. But if we had done this yesterday, the turnout would have been much higher.”

Mirtenbaum said the rally’s organizers decided the rally was still important because it would let students show their support of the University’s decision to move the ceremony back to campus.

“We can’t really be upset over the outcome of the march,” she said. “Technically, we already won the battle.”

LSA senior Erica Friedman said she attended the rally because she still feels strongly about the ceremony being in Michigan Stadium.

“It’s great news, but we’re still concerned about where it will be here,” she said.

Asked whether she thought the rally would make a difference, Friedman looked around and smiled sheepishly.

“It doesn’t look that way,” she said.

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