How to graduate in style

Smith College down in Northampton, Mass., is a model of how a graduation should be run. There are multiple student-run traditions, upheld by a good majority of the student body. Events are held, large ones, which all Seniors attend and look forward to. And a week is given between finals and graduation, plenty of time to tie up loose ends, both with jobs and academics, and probably some last-minute partying. Best of all, a Senior Ball is held where the entire campus center is closed down and high-end food and drinks are served all night long.Here in Castleton, though, the graduation ceremony seems almost anti-climactic. Yes, there’s a picnic during the weekend, the traditional candle-lighting ceremony, and.that’s pretty much all.

There are no big graduation parties (none endorsed by the school, anyway), no special traditions to be upheld the week before graduation (aside that candle-lighting ceremony for which a good chunk of people have lost their candles), no banquets, and a Senior Day that consists of a dude playing a guitar in the campus center while the soon-to-be graduates get their caps and gowns. Oh, and we got Frisbees.

Money isn’t hard to come by (The SA just spent close to $40,000 on Castlefest, $30,000 of which they just had lying around, waiting to be used). A senior banquet, with drinks for those of age, nice food, a casual-formal-dress request and speeches from the students leaving and some of their professors would go a long way towards building a sense of class-community that is sadly lacking in much of the graduation “activities”.

Walking the Dog is a tradition, sure, but it’s a student run tradition, one the school has nothing to do with and would certainly never endorse (though our campus seems to be slackening its terrible aversion to alcohol, thanks in no small part to Phil Lamy and his students and their excellent Pub Nights).

Also, why not a week or so to allow students to get their things together, party with their friends, get last minute job-searching done and just chill, something that many students desperately need before their leap into the “real” world?

Having graduation the day after the last finals are taken gives students almost no time to think about the enormous next step they’ll be taking in just a few short days. Giving graduates a week between finals and graduation day isn’t a lot of time, but it allows them to hang out with friends, many who might never be seen again, without the pressures of work and finals looming over them.

College graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, an experience people wish for again when they’re home with their spouses and kids twenty years down the road. And it should feel like one. This shouldn’t be something we have to get through, but something to look forward to. No school does it perfectly, but some do it better. There isn’t anything inherently bad in the way our graduation is being put on, but that isn’t much of a compliment. Graduation shouldn’t just be a ceremony, it should be an experience, and one that this year’s seniors remember longer than the time it takes to chug through a six-pack.

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