Traditions have long been a staple of the culture at Elon University — among them is the annual Commencement “Under the Oaks.”
But despite its long history, commencement will no longer be held “Under the Oaks.” According to Executive Director of Cultural and Special Programs Jeff Clark, commencement will be located on Scott Plaza for the foreseeable future.
Due to the construction of Schar Hall last year, commencement relocated to the plaza in front of Alamance building. After this year’s graduating class was surveyed by the student class officers, it was decided that commencement would remain in front of Alamance instead of returning to its original location.
“We decided to do it differently. The students spoke up and the students did a survey of the students and everybody wanted to be ‘Under the Oaks,’” Clark said. “But we don’t fit ‘Under the Oaks’ anymore. So, everybody was okay because we were at least close to ‘Under the Oaks.’”
Before the construction of the expanded communications facility, “Under the Oaks” was capable of holding 11,000 people. The completion of Schar Hall and Steers Pavilion, has reduced that number to 8,000, making the move to Scott Plaza necessary.
According to Clark, this new venue provides “more space, better sightlines, central location, more accessible to other buildings for restrooms and indoor viewing, safer emergency egress, better access for special needs guests.”
Despite the positives of Scott Plaza, this location provides much less shade than “Under the Oaks.” To make up for this, Clark said shade tents, water stations and air conditioned indoor viewing locations will be provided to help alleviate this problem.
Though a tradition is being broken, Elon seniors recognize that the move to Scott Plaza is necessary and the result of a growing university.
“It is, in a manner, sad that commencement is not going to be taking place ‘Under the Oaks’ like it’s been tradition,” senior Steven Armendariz said. “However, just like this university, it’s ever-changing, it’s growing and honestly we’re growing at a rapid pace.”
Armendariz explained the benefits of holding commencement in front of Alamance.
“More students will be able to accommodate family members and friends and relatives that they want to invite to commencement. And in addition, there are a lot of logistic issues with having commencement ‘Under the Oaks right now.’”
Similarly, senior Austin Krauss expressed his support of the change in location.
“This comes with any sort of innovation, change or progress, but things have to be done differently because, all of a sudden the prior circumstances are now no longer applicable,” Krauss said. “And there’s a reason for the change because the student population is growing and becoming larger and then with more people coming in such as family and friends, they can no longer support what was the old way of doing things and the old situation is, like I said, no longer applicable.”
Though a plan has not yet been created for a situation in which Scott Plaza becomes overcrowded, Clark said that this has been discussed and the new location is expected to be large enough for several years.