[We welcome yet another new commentator to The Illuminator's stable of observers and rebels. Still Taking Notes reflects on graduation atmospheres, then and now.]
Last Friday, Edison hosted the graduating class of 2009 to the biggest, best, and most important party of the year. These are our graduates, our students, our friends, and we are there to celebrate their accomplishments. But, where were the hosts—the President, the trustees, the guest speaker, the platform party?
As usual, they retreated to their administrative enclave to drink and celebrate in their own private way. There was no opportunity for students to meet with the guest speaker, to ask him to sign their program, or to just bask in the glow of their own success. There was no opportunity for parents to shake the President’s hand, or to thank the trustees for keeping Edison accessible to their children.
At every other graduation that I have attended, there has been an open invitation for anyone who wanted to chat with the platform folks. We may not have known who they were, but they were dressed in their academic finery and we wanted to be seen with them! If our platform aristocracy does not want to rub elbows with the masses in the cafeteria, they could always hold their reception in the Emerson Center, giving parents a chance to see Edison’s new library, internet café, and medical technology building, an enclave that could certainly use more foot traffic.
I can guarantee that our own Gang of Five will not be overwhelmed with students and parents, eager to shake their hands. Students want to see their professors, their mentors, their friends, and get on to their own parties. But, that is not the point. The important thing is that our administration appears accessible, friendly, and sober--not isolated in administrative lock up with hors d’oeuvres and Chablis. Besides, it is just so very uncool to leave your own party!
And just a word about the good ole days, for those who may not remember: Some of my favorite Edison moments were graduations when Phil Lootens and one of the trustees stood beside the faculty processional and shook hands as the faculty passed into the gymnasium saying, “Thank you for teaching for Edison!” It was a lovely moment that made all of the difficulties of the previous year melt away.
Students were in graduation regalia, spring was in the air, and we had an administration that understood that Edison is about students and their successes, not about isolationism and protecting the posh life of the administrative elite.