Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Why do students who aren't really graduating beg to 'walk' at the graduation ceremony?

Do they think nobody will know? Do they think it counts anyway? Don't their consciences nag at them? (I imagine “pomp and circumstance” playing in the back of someone's mind for the rest of his life, like the telltale heart.)

I'd feel like a colossal fraud.

I could understand if a college made it a usual practice to 'walk' summer grads in spring, just so they could save on ceremonies. (High School Friend on Right Ocean 'walked' for his doctorate a full year in advance of actually receiving it, based on some very weird circumstances involving getting his adviser back in the right hemisphere. But that was for a reason.) Proprietary U insisted on running three full graduations a year, and made it mandatory for faculty to attend two (and deans to attend all three). It was a real pain, and not inexpensive. And even there, with graduations rolling around every few months, students would beg to walk immediately, even if they had to retake classes the following semester.

(A side note on graduation etiquette: since 9/11, they've all involved the national anthem. It seems rude to leave the mortarboard on during the anthem, but it seems ridiculous to put it over your heart like a baseball cap. What's the etiquette here? I've gone with the baseball cap method, on the theory that it's the less offensive, but it still strikes me as incongruous.)

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, graduations were relatively rare. You'd have one from high school, another from college, and one from grad school. Now you get them from preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, etc. I've heard of professors doing 'graduations' on the last day of each class. I see no good coming from graduation inflation. It debases the currency.

In a pinch, I suppose I could understand the kid who just found out two days before the ceremony that he didn't make it, but his family already bought the tickets to fly in from several time zones away. But that's rarely the case at a cc. These folks are local; I'd be surprised if many had to drive more than an hour. The students who claim they had no idea usually should have known months in advance, if not longer. And any kid who thinks he's fooling his family is in for a rude shock when the family gets a tuition bill for the following semester.

Wise and worldly readers – why do non-grads want to walk?