Commencement ceremonies will be canceled for the first time in Kansas University history if rain falls on Lawrence on May 19, the day of graduation.
James Scally, assistant to the chancellor, said today that the decision to cancel ceremonies in case of rain was made out of concern for people's safety. In past years, commencement ceremonies were moved to Allen Fieldhouse during rain-outs. The last year that happened was 1981.
"In 1981, we exceeded the capacity of the fieldhouse by several thousand," Scally said, adding that commencement ceremony audiences have grown significantly since then.
Scally said about 35,000 people attended last year's commencement ceremonies. The fieldhouse seats only about 16,000 people.
According to the commencement flier, if it is raining the morning of May 19, the outdoor procession and ceremony scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. may be postponed. If the weather clears, the procession will begin at 5:30 p.m. But if it is still raining at 5 p.m., KU will cancel its 119th commencement ceremonies.
Scally, coordinator of commencement, said the main issue is safety. He said it would be irresponsible of the university to exceed the capacity at the fieldhouse, which he said would be inevitable. And he said the fieldhouse is "probably the least safe building on campus" because of its "big, open roof."
When asked if KU could postpone ceremonies until May 20 in the event of inclement weather May 19, Scally said, "If it's still raining in the late afternoon (May 19), we don't feel it would be appropriate to ask everyone to stay overnight."
Local motels and hotels have been booked for commencement weekend for about a year.