Update on Commencement (5/9/19)

Dear Lawrence Community,

Following our announcement of a change of venue for Commencement 2019, we heard from many members of the graduating class and their families. They were concerned about the plan to move Commencement to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (PAC). Several administrators and I met with Senior Class officers, Miranda Salazar and Hoa Huynh, on Tuesday. We agreed to hold a forum that afternoon for the graduating class to ask questions and better understand the factors at play in the decision.

The discussion was representative of the best of Lawrence. Students engaged thoughtfully with this important issue and, together, we came to a better understanding of our different priorities. The University administration had prioritized ensuring a quality of experience defined primarily by sheltering participants and guests and mitigating issues around accessibility—even at the expense of potentially limiting in-person attendance. Forum participants expressed different priorities, specifically, providing a location that supports open, in-person, attendance and keeps Commencement in its traditional location of Main Hall Green.

Because not all members of the graduating class were able to attend the forum, and not all participants shared their preference publicly, we agreed to poll the entire class. The poll contained context about the pros and cons of each viable option. We were clear both in the forum and in the poll that the choice of Main Hall Green at this point means the vast majority of seating will not be covered by a tent; this might lead to a delay of Commencement exercises in the event of inclement weather. Furthermore, the condition of the Green may still be soft or muddy in places depending on weather leading up to the event. This said, we heard loud and clear from the class that they want as many family and friends as possible to watch them walk across the stage, to witness in person the culmination of their Lawrence experience. They also want the University to arrange for a rain site to prevent outright cancellation of Commencement in the event of sustained inclement weather.

The poll closed at 12:00 p.m. yesterday, and we met with Miranda and Hoa to discuss the outcome. The results revealed a resounding preference for Main Hall Green: 202 for the Green, 69 for the PAC, total participation rate of nearly 80% of the graduating class. In light of this feedback, we will plan for Commencement 2019 to be held on Main Hall Green on the same date, at the same time as originally announced: June 9, 10:00 a.m. CDT. Please plan for an open-air event.

In addition to making technical arrangements to hold the ceremony on the Green, University staff and faculty have begun arranging a viable rain site in the event of inclement weather on the day of Commencement. Please note that any rain site option will require tickets. These will be distributed to graduates at the Commencement Rehearsal on Friday, June 7, regardless of the forecast for the day of the ceremony. Please watch for additional communication about this change.

As a learning institution, civil discourse and learning from differing perspectives are essential elements of the education we provide and the values we uphold. We thank the Senior Class officers for organizing these important discussions—the perspectives and insights expressed by students helped us work toward a shared goal of making Commencement 2019 a memorable event for all.

Please remember to visit go.lawrence.edu/commencement for information regarding Commencement, including updates to the schedule or other important news. Thank you for your patience. I look forward to celebrating with you in June.