Dear Parents of Graduating Students:
Finals Weekend represents one of the most joyful, meaningful moments in the life of the University. We look forward to welcoming you, other family members, and guests to the Grounds next week as we join in celebrating this milestone with your daughters and sons.
Planning in advance for the weekend is important, and I write to provide several last-minute details you may find helpful. This is a large-scale event involving thousands of graduates, guests, and University representatives. More than 20,000 individuals gather on the Lawn for each ceremony on Saturday and Sunday.
We advise you to plan ahead for the logistics of getting to the Lawn on the morning of your graduate's ceremony. Ideally, all guests should be seated by 9:15 a.m. Depending on traffic and where you are traveling from, you will need to allow adequate time to reach designated parking areas, catch shuttle transportation to the Lawn, and enter one of two security checkpoints. Services are available for guests with disabilities or limited mobility; please see the Major Events website for more details.
The entry checkpoints for graduation will be located on the west side of the Lawn, in front of Garrett Hall; and on the east side, between Rouss Hall and Pavilion X. The University will follow the same security protocols as used for other large-scale events held on Grounds, including a clear bag policy and the use of metal detectors. More information about security and items not allowed on the Lawn is available on the Finals Weekend website.
Similar security will be in place for Valediction, which takes place on Friday at 3 p.m. on the Lawn. This ceremony is not a ticketed event. John Paul Jones Arena will serve as the inclement-weather site for Valediction as well as the severe-weather site for Final Exercises on Saturday and Sunday. The safety and security page for Finals Weekend also covers procedures for the arena.
To access the Lawn (or John Paul Jones Arena) for Final Exercises, all guests must have a ticket. For those without tickets, the ceremonies will be live-streamed to various locations across Grounds. Guests also can watch a live webcast from anywhere.
Detailed information about all aspects of Finals Weekend is available on the website. One piece of advice: Determine a location to meet your graduate after the conclusion of the Final Exercises ceremony, as well as the location of their school/department graduation ceremony. These ceremonies occur at various times and locations after Final Exercises on the Lawn.
In a few days, we will be communicating with graduates about general decorum, especially during Final Exercises. Every year, a small number of graduates over-indulge in alcohol prior to the ceremony and are unable physically to participate in the Academic Procession down the Lawn. We view this as an unhealthy, disappointing conclusion to their time at UVA and hope that you will join us in urging students to refrain from this type of behavior.
In addition, we have noticed that every year, the number and size of balloons keep growing larger. Glitter tossed during photographs also has become a new problem. Both glitter and the balloons, once released or popped and left on the ground, are harmful to the environment and require additional clean-up by the University's facilities crews. While we aren't banning balloons this year, we are encouraging our graduates not to bring items that will delay lines to access the Lawn, including balloons. If graduates do bring balloons, we ask that they keep others in mind during Final Exercises since the size and quantity of balloons often block personal views and impede the procession. Some of our sustainability advocates on the Grounds are encouraging graduates to swap balloons for eco-friendly alternatives, such as garden spinners, tissue paper pom-poms, and bubble blowers.
All graduates should arrive at their entry checkpoint no later than 8:45 a.m. to allow for adequate time to go through the security screening.
Finally, I encourage you to sign up for Finals Weekend text messages that will be sent to you in the event of any updates or changes throughout the weekend. To register for this free service, text "uvagrad" to 79516. Once you sign up, you will receive a confirmation message. After Finals Weekend, you will be automatically unsubscribed from the service.
If you have specific questions or concerns about your student, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or a member of the Student Affairs staff. If you have questions about Finals Weekend, you may reply to this message, and a member of the Office of Major Events staff will respond.
We are grateful to you for your support as parents. Behind every graduate are champions and supporters who have helped them reach this point in their lives. Congratulations to each of you, and best wishes for a wonderful weekend.
Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer