By Linda Weiford, WSU News

To ensure a sunny sendoff for WSU Pullman graduates, a rain plan is in place for the May 5 commencement.

Just in case.

Even though the ceremony is held inside the Beasley Coliseum, students and faculty line up outside before filing into the building for the processional, when thousands of audience eyes are upon them.

Last year, students and others found themselves lining up in a chilly downpour with wind gusts of up to 20 mph prior to the 8 a.m. commencement ceremony.

“I have been doing this for 20 years and last year was the first time we had to cancel the processional of undergraduates and their faculty members and have them come inside to get out of the rain,” recalled commencement operations manager Teri Hansen. “It was not something we decided on in a whim, it was miserable out there.”

To prevent rain from clouding future commencement events, an inclement weather plan has been created. It applies to undergraduate students and general faculty only, the largest group that assembles outdoors for the line-up. The other commencement groups are small enough that they can line up in the tunnel entrance to the coliseum in the event of heavy rainfall, said Hansen.

Commencement officials will monitor weather reports early graduation morning. If heavy rain is predicted, a text message will be sent to all registered undergraduates and general faculty of that specific ceremony to alert them that the outdoor lineup and processional has been cancelled due to bad weather. Alternate instructions will be provided and ceremony participants will be ushered inside the coliseum in an organized manner.

To ensure that the rain plan notification system is functioning properly, all registered undergraduate students and general faculty will receive a test text message on April 30.

Should the real thing have to be activated the day of the ceremony, heavy rain will be to blame — not drizzle or snowfall, said Hansen.

“In that case, it’s better to have the processional as planned with all the pomp and circumstance,” she said. “There’s something magical about emerging from the tunnel onto the main floor — the smiles, the music and selfies – with audience members watching all around them.”

Look for commencement ceremonies scheduled at WSU’s Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Everett campuses at the WSU Commencement Ceremonies website.