For May grads, it’s Kenan, come rain or come shine

Whether the sky on Commencement Sunday morning, May 8, is a bright Carolina blue or a cloudy gray, the place for the ceremony will be the same – Kenan Stadium.

Chancellor Holden Thorp has reversed a policy that had May Commencement shifting inside to the Dean E. Smith Center in the event of rain. While the weather never necessitated a change in venue, each year graduating students were urged to secure Smith Center tickets for guests in advance. About 30,000 people attend Commencement annually in Kenan Stadium, whereas the seating capacity in the Smith Center for graduation is 20,000 or less.

This year there will be no need for tickets because Commencement will be held in Kenan Stadium at 9:30 a.m., rain or shine. “Moving the ceremony to Smith Center was never a good option because the seating capacity is so limited for an event of this magnitude,” Thorp said. “This way, graduates won’t have to limit the number of guests they invite.”

If it rains during commencement, the chancellor and organizers will shorten the ceremony, but it will not be relocated. If severe weather threatens and attendees’ safety is at risk, the ceremony would be canceled.

The change in policy eliminates confusion about where graduates and guests should go for the ceremony when the weather is questionable. It ensures that all the family members who travel to Chapel Hill will be able to attend Commencement. And it will save thousands of dollars in ticket distribution and in staff time for workers who would have to be on call at the Smith Center.

The doctoral hooding ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, May 7, at 10 a.m., will still be held in the Smith Center, as will December Commencement. No tickets are required for either event.

The May 2011 Commencement speaker is biodiversity pioneer Edward Osborne Wilson Jr., Harvard University professor and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

Seniors are invited to attend Commencement Information Day on March 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Great Hall, of the Student Union.