I spent yesterday afternoon at the undergrad graduation ceremony here at UConn. As a faculty member, this entails renting a cap & gown, standing in line, walking in a line, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, walking out as a line, returning the cap & gown. It's not entirely clear if we add anything to the day, but, hey, it's kind of fun. This year was actually much shorter than previous years, only 1 hour, 37 minutes! And the commencement speaker, British author Fay Weldon, was great.
During the brief 97 minutes I had sitting there, with nothing to do, I noticed a few things.
1) Money. Who was about the first person to talk to the students? The head of the Alumni Foundation. The message: Keep in touch and give us money. I suppose that graduation, like some many other things, involves getting money.
2) Happy. All the students were happy, even the ones who I knew usually didn't look happy (at least in my classes. Of course, there could be other explanations for that...).
3) Cynical. Every graduation I have attended, including my own, have started with me in a mood of dismissive cynicism--what a bunch of pointless ceremony--and ended with me feeling maudlin. (I should probably sign up to go more often).
4) Cap & gown. Every two years I drop $40-$50 bucks to rent a $300 outfit for a couple of hours use. Let's see, if I buy one myself, I break even in about six years... beyond my time horizon for financial wisdom. (I may stop thinking rationally about decisions more than about a week away).
5) Peaking. Little do the students know, but in many ways this day is the peak of many good things for them. Personal autonomy, number of friends, physical health, and, discretionary time (and maybe income). When I made this comment to a friend, sitting next to me, he added: and sex.