Letter to the Editor 3/23

To the Editor:

I have been informed by my son that when his class graduates at the end of this academic year, the graduates will not be called up individually to receive their degree.  Instead the degrees will be conferred to all of the graduates en masse.

If this is true, I am very disappointed that St. John’s would take this action. St. John’s is one of the schools that always looked to help the working and middle class move up in the world. For many of his classmates, they will be among the first in their families to graduate from college.

For my wife and I, the daughter and grandson of immigrants who did graduate college, the pride and joy is just as great. My 85 year-old mother-in-law had the opportunity to see her oldest grandson walk across the stage of the PNC Arts Center last May as her oldest grandchild graduated from St. Peter’s College.

She was looking forward to my son’s graduation this year, as were my parents who would see their first grandchild graduate from college. It appears I am now to ask three senior citizens to come to Queens to listen to multiple speeches, and watch honors awards presented.

If this decision was made in an effort to save time, I have two suggestions, the second one is a little bold and different, but I think the majority of the graduates and their families would be in agreement.

The first suggestion would be to move any awards to a separate ceremony. This would allow the proper recognition for those who have merited this distinction instead of it being rushed.

The second is very novel. Why not do away with the commencement speaker, as well as the awarding of honorary degrees. I make this suggestion for two reasons. After having sat through  eight post secondary commencements in my life, I can say I have never heard a truly memorable speech. In fact, I would challenge you to describe the 30 plus speeches you have sat through in the past 10 years.

Most people can’t wait for these to be over. This would allow anywhere from 20-40 minutes of time to recognize the graduates who have worked so hard. I am sure I speak for most of the families when I say we would rather hear the names called than listen to a speech.

As to the honorary degrees, I recognize that most honorees are deserving people who have made contributions to the university, or society. However, are they any more deserving of being recognized than the students who have worked hard in the classroom, and in their jobs for the past four years?

The graduates deserve the honor of having their names read and their diplomas handed to them individually, and their families also deserve to see them recognized for the hard work they have done over the past four years.

I am asking that St. John’s University reconsider the decision to eliminate this commencement practice of allowing each graduate to be called forward to receive  the proper recognition.

Frank Scott

(Parent of graduating senior)