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Updated 5:30 PM February 1, 2008




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Commencement back on campus but not at Big House

The University has announced that Spring Commencement will not be held at Michigan Stadium, but it will take place on campus with the Diag and Elbel Field as two locations under consideration.

West Bloomfield senior Mike Eber, above right in yellow T-shirt, leads a group of students in the U-M fight song after hearing Spring Commencement will not be held at Eastern Michigan University, and instead will stay on campus. Photo by Jillian Bogater

In a letter to graduating students Friday, Provost Teresa Sullivan and Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper detailed the extensive review conducted by architects, engineers and event planners that led to the final decision about the Big House.

“At a meeting this week, President Coleman and the executive officers re-examined the issue in light of the latest information. We concluded that the stadium is not a viable option for the commencement ceremony,” Sullivan and Harper wrote.

“In our judgment, the number and magnitude of risks, uncertainties, problems and costs associated with holding an event for 25,000 people in the midst of a major construction zone are simply too great.”

In making the decision, leaders cited the shifting nature of a construction site with its massive equipment, deep holes and vigorous activity; safety concerns such as crowd crush in the event of an emergency; accessibility; environmental impact, including the laying of asphalt just for the event and the immediate disposal of it; and the risks from delaying the construction — both financial and a potential loss of reputation caused by excessive spending and the threat of disrupting the expectations of football fans, should the project be delayed. More explanation can be found at

University leaders announced Jan. 9 a plan to hold commencement at Rynearson Stadium at Eastern Michigan University because of construction at the Big House. Officials said the decision was based on the belief that students would expect the usual eight tickets for family and friends. This number of seats would not be possible in any facility on the U-M campus as the next largest venue, Crisler Arena, can accommodate only two to three guests per graduate. 

The letter notes that the Diag and Elbel Field are accessible sites that make a single commencement ceremony possible while accommodating the number of guests students have indicated they wish to invite. A list of pros and cons for the two sites can be found on the Web site as well.

Earlier last week the University announced that it would hold the ceremony on campus, following results of a poll in which 88 percent of the 4,022 graduating students that responded said they want Spring Commencement to stay at U-M and they are willing to take a reduced number of tickets to make it happen.

When asked to say which factor was most important — having guests attend the same live ceremony; attending the same event as friends, regardless of school or college affiliation; participating in a graduate procession; attending the same ceremony as the graduate speaker; or having commencement on campus — 69 percent of the respondents said the campus location was most important. Having guests at the same event came in a distant second at 14 percent.

A Jan. 29 student march to protest spring graduation at EMU was cut short by the administration’s decision to reverse course and hold the ceremony at U-M. Mike Eber, a West Bloomfield senior, led a group of 20 students who gathered in the Diag around a large “Maize Out March” banner.

“We’ve already won,” Eber said, raising a newspaper announcing the decision above his head. “We got our wish.”

“I’d like to thank the administration for working with us,” he added before leading the group in a spirited rendition of the U-M fight song, “The Victors.” “Student activism was a deciding factor in bringing graduation back to campus.”

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