Diag preparations underway for Spring Commencement
The University has unveiled a comprehensive Spring Commencement plan, addressing details including seating, acoustics and parking, which will transform the Diag into a first-time graduation venue.
While grounds crews already have started to trim trees and level the ground, construction crews will begin work April 14 to lay plastic event flooring and remove kiosks and banner poles. Temporary snow fencing will be set up to prevent foot traffic in the area during this time. Work will finish the day before the April 26 ceremony.
"This event has been very exciting to plan allowing for the opportunity to think and work outside the box," says Kate Haessler, events manager at the Office of University and Development Events. "We have partnered with many different offices within the University to identify solutions and strategies."
Concerns about ongoing construction at Michigan Stadium prompted University officials earlier this year to move the ceremony from its traditional venue to the Diag. The new location allows up to six tickets for graduates receiving bachelor's degrees and up to four tickets for graduates receiving master's or doctoral degrees. The setup at the Diag also will provide for access for all guests, including those with disabilities or limited mobility.
The University will maximize seating on the Diag and surrounding grassy areas by setting up temporary flooring and seating areas.
Seven trucks will transport close to 30,000 folding chairs in addition to 20 sets of U-M bleachers to provide seating in the Diag. Each chair will be placed within a set row and tied off to the chair next to it to maintain proper row width and egress, says Ann Zalucki, business administrator for the Office of the Associate Vice President of Facilities and Operations.
To minimize visual and audio obstructions, event planners have increased the number of video screens and audio towers in the Diag. Two overflow locations, Hill Auditorium and Ingalls Mall, will provide seating along with video and audio of the ceremony.
The venue change will have no impact on the number of faculty who can attend the ceremony, says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs.
"One of the most important ceremonial aspects of the University's graduation exercises is the pageantry and symbolism associated with the presence of faculty and administrators in academic dress," Monts says. "The change of venue for this year's Spring Commencement will not in any way detract from the colorful pomp and circumstance that is so much a part of the Michigan tradition. At Spring Commencement, students and their families can expect to see the University regents, the president and senior administrators, and the deans of the schools and colleges sitting on the platform at the Diag."
University officials also developed a detailed plan to minimize the effect of construction on final exams, which take place April 21-24.
"While it is necessary for workers to prepare the Diag space for Spring Commencement, we have been assured that the noise level will be kept to a minimum, thereby allowing final exams being conducted in adjacent buildings to proceed as normal," Monts says.
All campus lots and structures will provide free parking the day of the event, in addition to 18 complimentary shuttle busses that will transport attendees from various off-site locations. City parking lots will offer a flat fee that day. For more information about parking options, go to www.commencement.umich.edu.
"We strongly encourage guests to use shuttles, in order to avoid heavy traffic and parking congestion," Haessler says.
Restrooms will be open in buildings surrounding the Diag, and planners will bring in 20 portable restrooms by the graduate gathering area and another 40 will be placed on the perimeter of the venue area for the convenience of the attendees, Zalucki says.
After the event closes, workers will begin to remove chairs and start cleanup of the area. Breakdown is expected to be complete by the end of the day April 30. Re-seeding of the area and student activities will resume May 1.