LSA senior Eric Victorson is hoping against hope.
Deep down, he still believes there’s a way for the 2008 commencement ceremony to be held at Michigan Stadium.
“I’m not an expert, but I still believe that there must be some way that we can halt construction,” Victorson said. “People at Michigan are smart enough that we can work together to figure out some sort of solution.”
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said this won’t be possible.
University officials announced Tuesday that the University-wide commencement ceremony won’t be held at Michigan Stadium because of ongoing construction. Instead, the ceremony, slated for April 26, will be held at Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium.
Cunningham said the lack of working bathrooms and electricity would prevent the ceremony from taking place at the stadium.
“It’s the intensity of that work during those months that makes it impossible to stop working, open it up, then resume construction soon after commencement,” said Cunningham, adding that excavation and steel structure work could also make the stadium unsafe.
But some aren’t willing to take no for an answer.
When Victorson heard about the e-mail, he immediately started a Facebook.com group called “Michigan’s Graduation is meant to be in the BIG HOUSE.” As of 11 p.m. yesterday, 2,279 Michigan students had joined the group.
Victorson said he was frustrated by the timing of the University’s announcement.
“I’m shocked that no one had the foresight to think that the stadium reconstruction project would perturb the graduation ceremony at the Big House,” Victorson said. “I think whoever is responsible for planning this should have known more than just a few weeks ago.”
Individual students sent University President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Theresa Sullivan about 80 emails and 130 comments through the Commencement ’08 webpage, Cunningham said. Coleman and Sullivan plan to respond to each message individually, she said.
Construction crews are working on a strict timeline to ensure the stadium will br open for football games until the renovations are completed in Aug. 2010, making it impossible to pause work in April, Cunningham said.
Many students have suggested that the University use Crisler Arena, which is located next to the Big House, but the arena has only a capacity of only 14,000. Michigan Stadium, the nation’s largest football stadium, lists its capacity as 107,501.
Sue Eklund, associate vice president for student affairs, said Crisler’s capacity would would reduce the number of tickets available to each graduate from eight to two or three.
“We’re asking students to recognize that everyone is disappointed with this situation,” Eklund said. “Everyone wants to make the best of it, whatever the location.”
Eklund said a meeting would be held next week to discuss the possible solutions with students. She said holding the commencement at Crisler Arena is still an option. If that were the case, the University would likely use a video feed from Crisler to Hill Auditorium, where additional guests could watch the ceremony.
Michigan Student Assembly President Mohammad Dar said the University needs to give students a chance to make suggestions on the process.
“It is evident that this decision deeply upset the students,” Dar said in a statement. “And right now, they need to have a say in their graduation and they need transparency in the reassessment of every option.”
Despite the fact that construction is scheduled to continue until 2010, Eklund said only this year’s ceremony would be affected.