Cheng condensing graduation commencements disregards tradition

Dear Editor:

With all due respect to our administration, Chancellor Cheng is off the mark if she thinks that drastic changes to May commencement would somehow keep tradition and cultivate “an even more memorable experience.” I have proudly defended Chancellor Cheng through the labor disputes, the marketing campaign, along with other topics that the campus community has perceived as gaffes. That being said, I see no benefit to come out of this change to graduation.

I should preface this by imparting the knowledge that undergraduate commencement ceremonies are superfluous as there are droves of students who actually walk without having earned their degrees. From a pragmatic standpoint we must still do this dog and pony show because it is through such ceremonies that students get their final send-off from SIU. If students leave SIU upset or disinterested, that sentiment will likely represent their involvement as an alumni (the converse being equally understood).

As for her insistence that the changes will preserve tradition, she couldn’t be further from reality. Traditionally students graduate in May. The status quo at SIU has been to allow for students to have commencement with their individual colleges. It has been the case that SIU markets itself as a world-class university with a small community feeling. My college, Agricultural Sciences, has the recipient of the outstanding agriculture alumni of the year deliver an address. How many of these traditions are being preserved?

I find that literally no remnant of prior May graduations is being kept. The plan put forth sterilizes the experiences that each and every student has at SIU. We are now embarking on a mega-ceremony lasting hours in length. We are turning our back on recruitment rhetoric of big opportunities with a small feel. Our colleges are being stripped of their autonomy and traditions, such as having an outstanding alumnus speak during commencement. I detest the shift that is happening at this campus. Lamentingly, the issues continue on, such as the unannounced hike in graduation fees – justified with a graduation carnival and a menagerie of newspaper advertisements.

We as students must take action to mitigate and reverse these decisions which not only are symbolically atrocious but pragmatically nightmarish. I understand that a mega-ceremony may signal campus unity, but I would argue that if we perceive disunity that perhaps the problem is better solved at the beginning of a student’s tenure here than a last ditch effort to correct a fictitious problem. I hope that Chancellor Cheng will make immediate plans to maintain the status quo so that we may have a graduation that is shorter in length, richer in tradition and that lives up to the experiences that we’ve had at SIU – experiences that cannot be standardized.

Thomas Marten
senior from Raymond studying agricultural systems
and president of the College of Agricultural Sciences Student Advisory Council

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