Dear University Community:
I recently invited all of our undergraduate, graduate, and professional students -- except those who are graduating this spring -- to respond to a survey to help us determine how we will configure the University's Final Exercises for 2015 and beyond. The next phase of the Rotunda restoration and issues related to safety with the increasing number of people attending Final Exercises compelled us to consider alternative arrangements for Finals Weekend beginning next year. A Graduation Advisory Committee produced three options: 1) continue to hold graduation on the Lawn but sharply limit the number of guests who can attend; 2) hold two Final Exercises ceremonies on the Lawn, with the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences on one day of the weekend and all other schools on the other day; or, 3) arrange for students to walk the Lawn en route to Scott Stadium but hold the actual ceremony in Scott Stadium. In the survey, students were asked to rank these three options in order of preference.
Results showed that the overwhelming preference is to hold two ceremonies on the Lawn: 51% of students ranked this option as their first choice, while 29.9% and 19.2% gave top ranking to the single ceremony with limited-ticket option and the Scott Stadium option, respectively. Both undergraduate and graduate/professional students preferred the two-ceremony option, and this result was consistent across class years, schools, and even gender. Full survey results are available here.
The two-ceremony arrangement will require greater commitments from many U.Va. staff members who provide leadership and support for Final Exercises, including those who work in facilities management, police, dining services, parking and transportation, and other areas. We believe the improvements to safety and the greater number of guest tickets that will be available for our students under this arrangement make the commitment worthwhile. I will work closely with the provost and deans to develop the schedule for Finals Weekend 2015 and beyond, including the determination of whether the College will hold its Finals ceremony on Saturday or Sunday.
This new arrangement will allow students to preserve one of the most cherished and iconic experiences in higher education -- Final Exercises on Thomas Jefferson's historic Lawn. I am grateful for your commitment to this important event in the life of the University.
Very truly yours,
Teresa A. Sullivan