Shelter from the storm

I had planned to use this week’s column to bring some reason and perspective to the ongoing debate around campus over this year’s commencement exercises.

To all the graduating seniors who freaked when the University announced they wouldn’t be reading everyone’s name at May’s graduation ceremony, I was going to present a rational explanation on why they should be thanking the commencement committee, not complaining. Then the situation took a turn for the worst.

The Torch found out on Monday that the University, reacting to students’ and parents’ complaints, had decided to overturn their decision and reinstate the calling out of graduate names at graduation.

Well, to the almost 1,000 students who joined the “We want a REAL Graduation” group on Facebook and 300 students who signed a written petition, mission accomplished. You’ve officially extended our graduation ceremony by at least 2 hours. Your punishment is simple: You must sit and listen to someone read more than 3,000 names off of a list. You won’t be allowed to leave until you’ve heard everyone’s name called, and if it’s pouring rain or baking hot, tough luck.

Quite frankly, that sounds like a lucid nightmare, and for past graduates of St. John’s, it has already been a reality. The thought of sitting (or standing) on the Great Lawn for five consecutive hours alone is enough to make me crawl into a dumpster behind St. John Hall.

The commencement committee tried to give us an early graduation present, but instead we’ve whined our way into a headache. To be honest, I’m surprised that this is the part of graduation that has gotten students the most riled up. Keep in mind, this is a ceremony that hands out fake diplomas (students must pick up their real degrees at a later date), allows only four guests for each graduate, and is notorious for featuring less-than-stellar speakers.

One of the reasons I was originally so excited to hear that they wouldn’t be reading names this year was the sheer amount of complaints I heard last year and the year before that from friends who had sat through painfully long graduations.

I could fly across the country in that amount of time, or watch two long movies. If I applied myself, I could read a 200 page novel or run a marathon. I could also be sharing that time with my family and friends, the people who are genuinely excited for me and already know what my name is.

I fear that the students who are quick to complain are completely missing the real importance of graduation. It’s a significant moment in anyone’s life, but it’s as personal an accomplishment as any. If a grand public acknowledgement of your successful crossing into the post-grad world is really that important to you, take out an ad in the yearbook. Better yet, go back in time and attend a school that offers a more personal college experience – not the second largest Catholic university in the nation.

On the Facebook page that petitions the ceremony, one student urges everyone to “keep fighting,” while another suggests having two graduation days. The reoccurring sentiment “we earned it” repeats itself at least fifty times.

As I scrolled through these comments, I couldn’t help but feel lost and incredibly confused by the passion in which these students were summoning. A two-day graduation event? Has this student lost their mind?

It disturbs me that organizations like the Torch struggle with student involvement and S.G.I. can’t even get students to come out for elections, meanwhile something this ridiculous is inciting a horde of students to rally.

Amongst the repetitive calls for action and revolution on this Facebook page, one person’s comment stood out to me as sensible and profoundly refreshing. This person simply wrote, “I’m graduating, I’m receiving a degree, I’m proud and my family will be proud of me whether I walk, sit or don’t even go.” To this succinctly intelligent remark I can only say, bravo.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

Now it’s my turn to appeal to the good senses of our administration and the commencement committee. I urge the committee to once again rethink the decision they’ve made and see that they had it right the first time.

If you’re a graduating senior reading this who believes that we must pioneer the good fight against an excessively long graduation ceremony, I implore you to create a petition for our side. We can even name our Facebook group “We want a real, yet comfortably brief, Graduation” and make Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” our theme song. And what the heck, while we’re at it, let’s petition to receive REAL diplomas on graduation day.

Unfortunately, I have little hope that the commencement committee will reverse their decision a second time. But hey, at least I’ll get my 1.5 second acknowledgement on graduation day.