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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Mall a serious option for Commencement

University officials said Wednesday that the Mall area between 4th Street and 7th Street in front of Capitol Hill would be available for the 2006 Commencement ceremony.

National Park Service officials would not comment on the discussions with the University, saying only that they are ongoing.

Michael Freedman, GW’s vice president of communications, said no final decision has been made on the site. The University will be in discussions with the May 21 event’s contracted vendors to discuss the feasibility of holding the annual ceremony on the three-block grassy strip in front of the Capitol building. University officials learned in September that the White House Ellipse, where Commencement has been held every year but one since 1993, would not be available to the University this year due to construction.

The University has been planning on alternate sites for the ceremony since last May and did a walkthrough of the National Mall site Wednesday.

“It’s a very pretty site,” Freedman said. “Behind the main stage would be the Capitol building, and on the other side is the Washington Monument.”

But a disadvantage of the Mall site, Freedman said, is that some spectators could be sitting as far as three blocks away from the main stage. The University may rent large television screens to ensure that all attendees could see the event.

“We would be restricted to the center section of the Mall,” Freedman said. “If we do choose this site, we will have to determine how to accommodate parents who are sitting three blocks away. We may have to put our creative thinking hats on.”

University officials would not give a specific timeline for when a site will be confirmed for the ceremony, but Freedman said they would make an announcement “as soon as possible.”

The Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals, and the MCI Center are also being considered. Freedman said the University is still in discussions with MCI Center officials about using it as a backup site in case of inclement weather.

MCI Center officials said the professional sports teams that use the venue, including the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, have a hold on the stadium for May 21, the scheduled day of Commencement.

“Details of the discussions can not be given out,” said Sheila Francis, director of public relations for the MCI Center. “The chances are pretty good that if the schedule is already full for the day, that the site will not be available.”

The University has also been in discussions with RFK Stadium organizers, but stadium officials indicated that because Major League Baseball has a game scheduled at 1 p.m. on May 21, it is unlikely that site would be available.

Freedman said an absolute back-up plan in case of bad weather would be to hold the ceremony in the Smith Center and broadcast the event to viewing stations set up throughout campus.

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