Ungreatful, impatient and undeserving

By Ruth Davenport

Call me crazy, but I think the University of Calgary owes something to its students.

It was convocation week 2001 and my turn to toddle around the Jack Simpson in a billowing black robe and mortarboard designed to convey immense dignity, even over my outlandish orange-burgundy-gold geometrically patterned dress.

I convocated with most of the people I’d battled through four years of full-contact academia with–the study pals, the coffee chums, the beer buddies. I was with most of them, but not all.

Convocation week 2002 is upon us and although a majority of students will attend the ceremony and walk across the stage, a significant number won’t. Some will not attend because of logistical difficulties, such as jobs in far-off places like the Yukon or Australia. Others simply won’t attend because they think the ceremony is too long; it’s boring; they won’t be with their friends… bitch… moan… whine…

Pathetic, isn’t it? After four years of lectures no one believes were 100 per cent scintillating, faced with the opportunity for closure, for walking away with a little dignity and pomp and one chance to be made a fuss of, roughly one-quarter to one-third of 2002 U of C grads won’t do it. It’s boring, you see. There won’t be any pictures! No table dancers! Nothing to hold the minute attention span of these squirrely "intellectuals" who aren’t worth the parchment their degree is printed on.

If one is in the province (please note Strathcona was not listed as a far-off place), there is no reason not to attend convocation. In fact, I propose quite seriously that attending the ceremony be a requisite for receiving the degree unless geographic distance can be shown as a precluding factor. Yes, I think students need to attend their convocation, and I think it’s time the university administrators got tough about it. I do, however, strongly advocate their right to decrease tuition any time they feel the urge.

Attending my convocation made me all warm and fuzzy inside. It instilled an actual sense of institutional pride. It made me sit and reflect with awe on the things I’d done and accomplished to get into that black robe. It made me want go and own the world. Even though a year has passed, that inspiration is unabated. It was a magnificent, dignified, glorious event, an exclamation point at the end of a four-year sentence. Hell, Terry White’s, um… convocation… uhh… address nearly made me cry and no matter who you are, that’s huge!

The students who complain about convocation being long, tedious and boring don’t know what they’re missing. If they won’t drag their sorry asses into the gym, the powers that be should do it for them. Learning to sit through weighty ceremonies and appreciate their momentousness is something every university graduate needs to do. As a bona-fide alumna who walked the walk and shook the hands and trotted off unscathed, I say the students will eventually thank the people who herd them into that gymnasium. Convocation is neither long nor boring, but a valuable part of the complete university experience. It’s the final step, the nudge in the ribs–it’s like shutting off the snooze bar but with a lot more pomp and circumstance.

Tough love is tough, but it’s still love. Convocation ceremonies are powerful and necessary and if a university graduate can’t see the injustice they’re doing themselves by not attending, then the institution has an obligation to make it plain. Sheep hooks, cattle prods, a good old-fashioned drop-kick–whatever it takes. University grads need to feel that degree in their hand with all its weight.

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