East Carolina University's outdoor commencement ceremony has been canceled due to severe weather, according to an early morning ECU alert.
All other individual college, school and departmental recognition ceremonies are set to be held as planned over the weekend.
A listing of weekend recognition ceremonies and updates can be found at ecu.edu/commencement.
More than 5,000 soon to be East Carolina University alumni will take part in the 2017 Spring Commencement amid concerns over safety because of predicted inclement weather.
East Carolina University Police Department Public Information Officer Chris Sutton met with members of the media on Thursday to give an update about the ceremony and to address weather concerns.
As of Thursday morning current weather forecast models are predicting heavy rain, moderate winds and the possibility of thunder or lightning at the time of graduation. ECU has been monitoring the weather since the beginning of the week and has alternative plans ready in case inclement weather jeopardizes safety, according to Sutton.
“The priority will be public safety and ensuring that those in attendance are safe while they are here,” he said.
ECU’s Spring Commencement is considered to be a “rain or shine” event by the university. The event’s schedule can be modified if there is a danger to public safety. In order for the university to consider cancelling or postponing the event there would have to be a threat to public safety like thunder or lightning. However, if only rain is present the ceremony will run as scheduled, according to Sutton.
“We have had ceremonies before where rain was present. The last few commencement ceremonies we’ve had over the last couple of years rain or severe weather has been a player on some level,” said Sutton. “This is something that has been a repeat and we’ve dealt with it and planned around it.”
Sutton added that some of the same protocol used to protect the public during dangerous weather at football games will be in place for the commencement ceremony.
Starting at 9 a.m. the Spring Commencement is set to begin at the stadium leading up to the guest speech. This year's keynote address is set to be delivered by current University of North Carolina system president Margaret Spellings.
In total, 5,542 students will be participating in the spring commencement. Of that “ECU will confer degrees to 3,980 bachelor degree candidates and 1,295 graduate degree candidates,” according to a university press release.
“This is an exciting time in the lives of our students, their families and our university. Our graduates are prepared to capture the horizon. Their potential is unlimited to impact the world for good,” said ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton in a press release Monday. “We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments and to the commencement of their post-ECU expeditions as Pirate graduates. I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish.”
Beyond the concern of weather ECU is asking those who wish to attend the ceremony to arrive at the stadium beginning at 7:30 a.m.
“We encourage people to plan ahead to try and pick an alternate route,” said Sutton. “We are not closing any roadways, but there will be decent congestion as early as 7:30 a.m.”
The university along with the Greenville Police Department will be directing traffic and expect delays along 14th Street, Charles Boulevard, Greenville Boulevard and areas near main campus. Parking will be made available to guest around the stadium, Minges Coliseum and in the lots next to Clark LeClair stadium.
Because of weather concerns for commencement ECU will be passing out ponchos to graduates and will allow those in attendance to bring umbrellas because of the weather. Those in attendance for commencement will also seated in a specific area of the stadium due to the possibility for inclement weather.
“Weapons, alcohol or anything that would be prohibited on a typical football game day will be prohibited (at commencement),” said Sutton. “All seating will be on the north side of the football stadium because there is the potential for some weather. We won’t be having any seating up in the upper deck area.”
If any changes are made to the event’s schedule beforehand the university asks individuals to check the ECU commencement page at www.ecu.edu/commencement/. The ceremony will likely conclude around 11:30 a.m. ahead of other ceremonies amongst individual departments.