Thursday, May 14, 2009
Seats at Graduation
Thanks for all your hard work, sacrifice, and tuition. In appreciation of all you've done, we'll allow you to bring any three people you like to graduation. If your circle of family and friends is bigger than that, tough cookies.
Somehow, this just seems wrong to me.
It's true that community colleges sacrifice some of the trappings of The College Experience. There's less frisbee and hacky sack than might be found elsewhere, we don't do dorms, and 'frills' in general are pretty sparse. We don't get into controversy about Presidents as graduation speakers, since we don't get Presidents as graduation speakers. (Not that we wouldn't be open to it...hint, hint...) But even we usually like to give students the option of a real graduation ceremony, complete with academic regalia, Pomp and Circumstance, and beaming parents, spouses, and children bearing witness.
At my cc, as at so many others, graduation is held in the gym. Nobody is terribly happy about that, but it's by far the largest indoor venue we have. We could always risk going outdoors, but in my neck of the woods, you just can't guarantee nice weather on any given day. (Even with a huge wedding tent, you'd still have people crossing wide muddy fields on foot in their good clothes. Not good.) We don't have an arena like the major universities do, and renting civic centers and the like is often cost-prohibitive and a parking nightmare. (Actually, 'parking nightmare' is pretty much inevitable.) Besides, part of the point of graduation is to be on campus.
Unfortunately, the gym is only so big. In order to ensure that everybody's peeps get seats, we have to ration the number of seats per graduate. And something about that just rubs me the wrong way.
At colleges that attract students from hither and yon, it may be reasonable to assume that not everybody will be able to make the trip. But with a commuter student population, that's just not the case. And given the density of family and friend networks, we could probably double the capacity and still fill it.
Some universities do multiple graduations, broken down by 'college.' I guess we could adapt that to clusters of majors – allied health majors over here, liberal arts majors over there – but it would mean running the employees through the ceremony umpteen times, and the drain on the people behind the scenes would be considerable. Proprietary U used to have three graduation ceremonies a year, which had the distinct advantage of allowing students to walk when they actually finished. (In our system, January grads walk in May, just like May grads.) The downside, though, was that we all had to go through it three times a year, which gets to be a bit much after a few years.
Wise and worldly readers – has your college found an elegant solution to a shortage of seats at graduation?
Ceremonies never last longer than one hour, with a one hour drink afterwards.
I think most places seem to break the graduating class into smaller groups, and I think the reasons for that are fairly strong. The students feel more part of a program than of the college broadly anyway, and the downside isn't too bad -- if you have the ceremonies as close to back-to-back as possible, so you don't have to put up/tear down after each event, just do some tidying between, the wear and tear on the behind-the-scenes people isn't as bad as it would otherwise be.
The multiple ceremonies per year is unquestionably more convenient for the students, but then three ceremonies a year really is three times the work.
Alas, this is the last year for the sports arena. Next year we are going back to our old venue, the local high school theater, because of budget cuts. Each student is limited to 4 tickets. Sigh.
We use a large convention center a couple of miles form campus, which is relatively cheap, because it's seriously underused (and way too large for where it is). We used to have a similar capacity issue (and we had a 4-ticket limit, too, but encouraged students to share with classmates who needed more). Now, however, we have enough space.
So I'd think about the large venue and see how low a price you can negotiate.
For colleges that require faculty to go to all ceremonies, like mine, multiple ceremonies might not be well received.
Where I teach, we divide up our graduations, but it certainly is more work for some people. I was at our Arts and Sciences graduation last weekend, and we faculty were saying things like "the poor provost/chancellor/deans, doing this so many times--they're earning their big salaries this week" Here's your chance to step up and impress your faculty with how hard you work! :)
It could be really fun -- the faculty could come up after the ceremony to meet families. Families could bring food... The ceremony could be web-cast and projected on the screens in the classroom...
Really, all the college would have to provide would be additional trash cans in the area -- friends and family aren't likely to leave a huge mess.
We are lucky to be able to use a city arena like Al described. If we did it anywhere else, I have no idea how we would do it. As DD noted, we have lots of "first in family" students where getting a 2-year degree is a huge deal and an entire extended family (sometimes dozens of people) is there to continue to support the new graduate.
And a web site for Buy-Sell-Trade tickets.
Let the market forces work.
You have created a shortage of a good that is apparently in high demand (demand greater than supply). The only "fair" way to distribute a scarce resource is by using the price mechanism.
Until you do something to increase the supply of seats, your only option is to come up with a fiar way to ration the existing supply.
[ . . . sounds a lot like health care . . . as long as we all understand that "single payer" will reduce the supply of health care available, I guess we're all on the same page . . . "We are all equal in our misery" as the soviet old guard used to say . . . ]
The only downside is that one can't get a single big-name speaker, but honestly I didn't miss that at all.
Now breaking the ceremony in two was because of the number of students graduating. This worked but is not idea for parents that might have two kids at the same school in different programs as was the case for us
I geuninely LOVE our school's graduation. We have a prime time in the morning when it's cool) for the anicent gym, and we're out for the celebratory lunch by 11 AM (across the street at the commons). The small ceremony let's all relatives attend so long as the graduate RSVPs so the school can get a count for lunch.
The small school ceremony is a recent innvoation, but it's been a big hit. And it sends graduates on their way with a very warm glow. It's far preferable to the "cattle call" (round up the grads and herd them here and there) of the day before.
You might try that. Get together with your local High Schools (who must have the same problem). Go to whoever has a venue large enough. Talk to them about civic engagement; being a good neighbour with the surrounding community; about multiple graduations renting the space in what is otherwise a dry season. See what sort of a deal you can make.
We could hold one big ceremony in Huskie Stadium, and it might work, although our tradition is to call everybody's name (in some colleges, the marshals get the candidates in alphabetical order).
Wisconsin held one big ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium in May, and a smaller one in the fieldhouse in December. Everybody got to march across the stage, but only the doctoral candidates (Ed. D., J.D., M.D., Ph. D.) were recognized by name. The doctoral candidates had to sit downrange of the champagne corks.
I suspect in institutions that have a lot of first-generation graduates, having the students' name called matters a lot.
Seriously--how is setting up a mechanism whereby students can sell their tickets a "just hurt the kids" response?
I am assuming that YACP was suggesting that the CC still "give" their graduates the 3 tickets. The only addition he is making is to provide a mechanism for the students to sell those they can not use, or choose to not use.
What is wrong with allowing students to, rather than be hurt by either lack of seats or lack of family, reach an agreement that will satisfy both groups?
Oh wait--I get it... better to have all share an "equal" pain decided for them by "the powers that be" than allow people to decide for themselves what price pain they are willing to endure.
Which is better, in your opinion:
"I am sorry Jamie, I realize we are quite close, being siblings and all, but I only have three tickets, and, well, you are the youngest of three children. So, after mom, dad, and our oldest sibling, Pat, you have to wait in the car."
"Hey, Jamie--I was able to get a ticket to the graduation! It turns out someone was an only child, and had their 3rd ticket for sale for only $25! And it worked out well for them, too, since they were able to use that money to pay for their graduation dinner after the ceremony!"
Admittedly not every situation will work out this way. Some will choose to not sell their tickets. Some will choose to not buy additional tickets.
But hey--that's why I am "pro choice" -- I believe people should be allowed to make these choices for themselves.
Not all universities have room for lots of guests!
. . . it's the gleeful hooting and chest thumping they engage in after dooming everyone to life in the barrel that is so troubling.
[Do two ad-himinems cancel each other out under our new "No Ad Hominem" policy?]
The CC in my old hometown worked about the same way, although in the local performing arts center. The high school I graduated from switched to that location after an outdoor graduation got rained out for the first time in 30 years or more.
In my experience, the tickets didn't have a name on them, either the grad's or the ticket holder's.
I'm usually not excited about YACP's ideas, but if there's really no way around the limitation, you might as well help people help themselves.
The students, who have never done a graduation before, may not honestly have any idea what's going on. Clearly, you haven't been a person of lesser means trying to squeeze in everything that's supposed to happen while figuring out the system.
It's just all so totally unworkable. It's also another way to enforce class stratification, by forcing people to make yet another choice that underlines their (lack of) resources.
The Coase Theorem doesn't hold under liquidity constraints or high transactions costs. Argh!
I want to like the Free Market Fairy People, but you're all such choads when it comes to thinking through the logistics making markets work, so you end up relying on Free Market Fairy Dust. You're academics, fer cryin' out loud! There's no excuse for not thinking this stuff through!
These are college students, correct?
Many of them may have even heard of E-Bay . . .
So instead of a "win-win" solution for hte allocation of scarce resources, we have, what, exactly?
"Everybody suffers, but at least we all suffer equally!"
"People, when given free choice, will not choose what I want them to. Herefore, we must take away their freedom to choose!"
Phase 1 thinking . . . the dogma of nanny statists (well, very cruel nannies) everywhere . . .
"PLONK" as we used to say back in the day when we invented the internet (without the algores help)
A Community College made up of academics would be a very poor place to expect a system to arise that would be well designed to handle facilitating putting two types of people together (those that have excess tickets, and those that want them.)
Might I suggest we just remind students about http://stubhub.com.
Those students already attending the (larger) four year schools already are quite good at moving football and basketball tickets through this process--why not use a commercial, off the shelf technology rather than rely on a government body (The CC) to take on yet another responsibility for which they are not prepared?
Such a useless, stupid, ahistorical philosophy, and one that's done so much harm in the real world. There is enough Ayn Rand corpse-humping in the real world; don't bring that sort of idiocy to an institution like a Community College, which is a sort of shining light of access to opportunity.
Okay, so YACP didn't address transaction costs in his reply.
But I did (anon 6:41).
So let me ask you this: you assert that,
a) The university has to run it (I think you meant CC, but still...)
b) The transaction costs are high
c)Students will not be able to "figure it out"
I think I addressed fairly well the "students won't be able to figure it out part" when mentioning their use of StubHub for sporting events. (And YACP mentioned eBay--I suspect CC students also are familiar with other 'peer to peer' mechanisms through the net.
I believe that I also dealt with your "transaction cost" problem by introducing StubHub into the equation.
Yes, StubHub does charge a transaction fee. Apparently we disagree on what constitutes "high" transaction costs.
So just what is the problem with this approach?
Those students that choose to not participate in a transaction based exchange process are no worse off. As I read the proposal, everyone gets their 3 tickets. They can keep their three tickets.
Those with the resources to purchase, through exchange, additional tickets will be able to do so, and those who would like to trade the tickets for those cash resources could also benefit.
But here is the important point: NO ONE will be forced to be worse off than the initial starting condition. No one will be FORCED to sell tickets, or buy tickets. No one will be FORCED to do anything than be happy with their three tickets.
So seriously--if no one's situation is forced to change, and if transaction costs are pushed to those who choose to participate, what is your objection?
(I mean, besides a knee-jerk hatred of all things YACP).
The central issue is still the limited capacity.
How many ceremonies does your organization currently hold? Are you still hewing to the "One Mass Commencement" model?
I know many schools effectively increase capaicty by holding more than one ceremony.
Is there a large university nearby where you can hold your commencement? I have worked at universities that "host" high school and 2-year school commencement ceremonies.
The fact that some or even many students successfully use stubhub is not even support for, much less proof of, the proposition that nearly all students will correctly use the exchange system in this particular instance!
And that does not even begin to discuss counterfeiting issues. As soon as you create value, you create an incentive to fraudulently represent value.
The free market, well-regulated and with all participants fully aware, is not the default! The default is the black market, paranoid and constantly on the lookout for suckers, prone to bubble and calumny. Free markets are hothouse flowers -- beautiful, highly worthy of our effort, and terribly delicate.
Okay: so you are arguing that the current process of just giving out 3 tickets per student is vastly superior to implementing (or suggesting) anything that would in any way allow for the exchange of items with (potential) value.
And if I understand you correctly, you are concerned that, through counterfeiting, people might generate tickets that they didn't actually get through the official channels, with the purpose of selling them to allow people to attend a graduation.
It would seem to me that a) people don't place THAT much value on attending a graduation, b) if it is easily counterfeited then odds are pretty good the family of 12 is already doing it, and c) by advertising the opportunity to have such an exchange we would actually let the very uninformed individuals you "Defend" know about tools that others are (most likely) already using.
Dealing with the counterfeit claim, though: It would seem to me that, for counterfeiting to be something that could "run rampant" there would have to be significant pent up demand for the product, and a willingness to pay a price that would make counterfeiting worthwhile. While egos would like to think otherwise, I suspect that attending a graduation does not swell to that level of effort.
Speaking only for me, While I would like to see a family member graduate, barring sibling/parent/child, I will take the money, buy a graduation gift, and get my party on with everyone afterward.
Oh, and Coase Theorem most likely doesn't apply here, starting with the fact that the initial allocation of property rights is quite easily determined, and has a long history behind it (3 tickets per student. Done) and ending with the fact that these "mythical transaction costs" of which you speak are not only trivial, but embedded in the purchase price, and thus factored into the decision to participate in the exchange.
You try to sound so thoughtful and deep, yet you continue to sound a loud anti-market gong that essentially says "I hate anything that smacks of self-determinism and choice."
My bottom line: Agree to disagree. Understand that there may be competing views that are in opposition to the one you hold.
But please, don't go around tossing foul language (yes, we know what gutter your word came from, and what it means...) and
ad hominems at people because they simply have a different world view.
My bottom line: Agree to disagree. It's generally considered good form to attempt to practice your proscribed behavior for at least the paragraph before proscribing it.
Yes, I'm well aware of the libertarian canard that anyone who doesn't believe in the Free Market Fairy Dust is against liberty and self-determination. It's the standard invocation, a ward against having to think about the world as it exists. Magical thinking is magical thinking -- believing in the magic of the magically arising free market leads to belief in magic phrases to protect oneself against having to consider its consequences.
Okay--so rather than go on about fairies, could you please address the point by point refutations made? Or are you, essentially, conceding?
The reason I'm so tremendously frustrated -- and why I opened with insults, rather than reason -- is that all this talk about how another system might be better outright ignores the basic reality of the matter, which is that the current system is essentially functional. Any replacement system starts out against a very high bar. The usual Libertarian approach is, "if it's not a Free Market, it's Bad." It's magical thinking, not rational. Free Market Is Good. Not Free Market Is Bad.
If there's one thing the current housing crisis has shown us, it's that partially regulated systems can produce profoundly perverse results. And, in particular, that bubbles and fraud are inherent to money-based economies. So any discussion of any replacement system has to keep this idea in mind -- that one must either have tremendously educated participants, none of which can possibly get involved in counterfeiting and due to the absurdity of the idea, or one must have fairly restrictive official and social norms.
Graduation at a community college comes at a time when the students are generally very busy completing tasks, where parents and other related persons may or may not be familiar with what is going on (or even speak English), and where some people are still, well, 20-year-old people, and therefore fond of breaking things for the sake of breaking things. Graduation is a social situation which is inherently highly chaotic. Add to this that each person only gets one graduation of this type, and you have tremendous potential for a lot of hurt feelings and general unhappiness at any outcome which is perceived as unfair. In addition, the CC's fundamental mission is to promote a more fair allocation of opportunity. Having Jenny realize that having her parents see her walk the stage vs. $150 is a real decision for her, as versus Joe for whom it's not even a question, would just serve to underline how in even the most egalitarian institutions, class is still king. The existence of the possibility of the trade creates disutility.
Not all goods are goods. Not all market management mechanisms are contract enforcement. Fairness exists in people's minds, so it matters, even if Libertarians find it ridiculous. Indeed, it is this cheerful disdain for others' moral and emotional systems which pervades Libertarian social thought. It's why Libertarianism reaches its peak among 14-year-old boys. They've got the intellectual capacity to appreciate its simple beauty (just let people work and trade, dammit!) and lack the emotional capacity to appreciate its pitilessness and destructive capacity.
Anyways, this discussion would never have happened if I hadn't opened with some, ah, passionate speech. There's too little pushback against the societal assumptions of Libertarianism. People who are interested in real-world outcomes, rather than in castigating people who would not do well in Libertarian schemes (most people, and eventually nearly everyone), should be passionate about opposing further intrusions.
The difference between the Libertarian view of society and other views is the difference between monoculture forest and old-growth. Sure, one's easier to comprehend, and orchards can be the appropriate use of certain areas of land. But one of them is actually a self-sustaining natural system with meaningful complexity and space within it for its participants, and the other is a highly artificial system in which only a few types survive, and which exists at a basic level for exploitation.
That would be the nature of discourse free of ad hominem and attack (and foul language.)
I appreciate your willingness to engage in a lengthy reply addressing the points I made, despite DD's tossing the yellow flag on the play.
I respectfully disagree with you. Not in what you wrote. Much of what you wrote is in my mind correct, and impassioned "speech." You do show great compassion for others. (Although I would start disagreeing with your initial premise. The existing system obviously is perceived, at least by Dean Dad, as "not working." If it was, he wouldn't have written about it.)I just respectfully disagree that, IN THIS CASE, by allowing for the free exchange of a resource, without placing additional artificial constraints on the initial allocation (i.e. everyone still gets three tickets each), in any way causes harm on those who choose to not participate.
In your world, everyone being limited to 3 is "fair." In my world those people who are still getting three, while others are able to sell down to 2, or buy their way to 5, is fair.
In your world a person who remains at three (perhaps because they cannot buy their way to 5, or 7) is now "harmed" not because their situation has changed (they are still at three) but because the situation of those around them has changed, and they are now made to feel pain (Somehow.)
As you say, the exchanges are most likely already happening all around them, in an unofficial manner. So one could suspect what you find most discomforting is the knowledge that others traded (and thus were able to trade) resource for resource, to better their position.
I would argue that, by not having an open forum for exchange we are now reducing the exchange to those with appropriately large social and political networks, while excluding those very people who, through language barriers, or through social barriers, were not as well connected.
I see the process as opening the doors for all who choose to participate. You apparently view that openness to participation as simply highlighting that differences exist between people when you think none should.
We have different, carefully thought out world views. I would ask only one concession on your part, and that is to accept that a view that is different from your own may actually be well-reasoned, and believed by the holder to be as compassionate as your view. And, one of us could be wrong. I am readily willing to accept it could be me. Are you willing to accept it could be you?
Agreeing to disagree.
Socialism: A system based on envy, harnessed to totalitarianism, that punishes behaviors that improve the happiness of anyone involved in permitted transactions.
Greed and envy are both natural human emotions.
You derive satisfaction by advancing your own lot through service to others (because you are greedy) . . .
You derive satisfaction by preventing others from bettering their lots (because you are envious) . . .
-> Cui Bono? <-
I could add that a bunch of the work is actually done by the alumni association. They put on the tea after each ceremony, for example. And the registrar's office has a person who lives and breathes convo all year round (we do two days in the fall as well. We graduate 'em like crazy, yes we do). Of course, somebody has to find all those honorary degree recipients, but that's what committees are for.