There’s nothing quite like Spring Commencement at the College of Charleston.
Every year, undergrads don white dinner jackets and dresses and grab flowers and head for the bucolic Cistern Yard for one of the most iconic commencement ceremonies in the country. This year, more than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate degree candidates are set to take the stage in front of Randolph Hall and wait for their names to be called on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13.
And if you’re one of the thousands of guests attending, get ready for a graduation like no other. Here are answers to some common questions you might have before the ceremonies:
When is Commencement?
There are three commencement ceremonies this year, broken up into groups based on a student’s school. Beforehand, graduating students must attend a mandatory rehearsal on Wednesday, May 10. Each commencement will last about 2 1/2 hours and will begin at the following times:
- 4 p.m. Friday, May 12, 2017, for the Graduate School; School of the Arts; School of Education, Health and Human Performance; and School of Professional Studies. Bachelor of science candidates for public health will appear in this ceremony. A rehearsal is set for 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10.
- 10 a.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017, for the School of Business and School of Sciences and Mathematics. A rehearsal is set for 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 10.
- 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017, for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs. Bachelor of arts candidates for public health will appear in this ceremony. A rehearsal is set for 12:45 p.m. May 10.
Where can I watch Commencement?
Each commencement ceremony is scheduled to be held in the Cistern Yard, located at 66 George St., but a ticket is required for admittance. Each graduating student received four tickets during the spring semester to give to family and guests.
There will also be four satellite viewing locations where additional guests can watch the ceremonies live. Tickets are not required for admission to these sites, all of which have air conditioning and easily accessible restrooms. They are:
- The Stern Student Center Ballroom on the fourth floor of the Stern Student Center at 71 George St.
- Child-friendly rooms on the second floor of the Stern Student Center at 71 George St.
- The Recital Hall of the Simons Center for the Arts at 54 St. Philip St.
- The Emmett Robinson Theatre at the Simons Center for the Arts at 54 St. Philip St.
For guests who can’t make it to campus, live video from each ceremony will be broadcast on the College’s Facebook page and at cofc.edu.
What if it rains?
The College has been monitoring the weather for commencement weekend around the clock. If it starts raining or there is other inclement weather before the ceremony, the President’s Office may move one or all of the ceremonies to TD Arena. Announcements will be made on cofc.edu, local TV and radio stations and social media if that happens.
If commencement is moved due to inclement weather, only four ticketed guests per student will be admitted to TD Arena.
Can babies or toddlers enter the Cistern Yard without a ticket?
No. Due to fire and safety restrictions, everyone who enters the Cistern Yard must have a ticket, regardless of age.
Where do I park?
Parking will be available at the following three CofC garages:
- The George Street Garage at 34 St. Philip St., between George and Liberty Streets.
- The St. Philip Street Garage at 81 St. Philip St., between Vanderhorst and Calhoun streets
- The Wentworth Garage at 81 Wentworth St., with an additional entrance at Beaufain and St. Philip streets.
Fees for each garage will be reduced to $5 with a commencement program.
If you’re trying to get around campus during commencement, try to avoid the area around the Cistern Yard. The following streets will be closed before and during the ceremonies:
- St. Philip Street between Calhoun and George streets.
- George Street between St. Philip and Coming streets.
- Glebe Street will be closed to thru traffic between George and Wentworth streets.
Will there be water?
There will be water for graduate candidates and the faculty. Family members and guests watching commencement can each bring one unopened bottle of water into the Cistern Yard.
What should I wear to the ceremony?
There is no particular dress code, but do take the heat and humidity into account. Women typically wear sundresses and men tend to wear khakis and blazers, seersuckers or some other summer fabric.
Can I take photos?
You are welcome to take photos of the event, but please be respectful of other guests. If you want to leave your seat to take a photo of your graduate crossing the stage, you may do so, but please quickly return to your seat so others can see their grads cross the stage.
GradImages will also be providing professional photography at each ceremony. Videos of each commencement will also be posted to the College’s YouTube channel afterward.
Who are this year’s commencement speakers?
This year marks the beginning of a new tradition at the College of Charleston: from this point on, CofC alums will offer their sage advice to graduating classes at each commencement. This year’s commencement speakers include:
- Dr. Sam Stafford III ’68, a prominent Charleston physician and former president of the CofC Alumni Association.
- Elizabeth Colbert-Busch ’79, director of business development at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute.
- John E. Alessi ’98, co-founder and chief financial officer at Whip It Inventions.
When will my student get a diploma?
Diplomas will be ordered for students who graduate successfully in the term in which they apply after their degree has been conferred. Diplomas will be mailed four to eight weeks after conferral, provided the graduate doesn’t have a financial hold.