Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Commencement FUBAR

UPDATE: Do read the comments. Once again, Historiann immediately gets to the heart of the matter.

I do have a couple of posts I'm working on backed up, but right now I just need to vent about something. And it has to do with commencement.

At Urban University, commencement is optional for faculty. And it can be kind of irritating -- Urban U. has a student population of over 30,000, so commencement, even broken up into five separate ceremonies (two for my college alone) has an assembly-line feel to it. Plus, we share our ceremony with Big Rowdy Party Major, so not only is there whooping, hollering, and air horns; also they go first, then they get up and leave as soon as they are done, which never fails to piss me off. Worse yet, so do their faculty. From the front row.

((deep breath))

Still, I go, and breathe deeply when things start to irk me, and stand up and shake the hand of or give a hug to every one of our majors that processes by, even if I've never had them in class. This is about them, not about me. It is their moment, and I owe it to them (and their parents) to be there, and be fully respectful and attentive. I don't care if they were A students or barely squeaked by; for this two hours, once a year, it's all about them. And a lot of my department colleagues feel the same way -- we usually have the best faculty turnout, and are kind of proud of that fact.

Plus, truth be known, I kinda like wearing my regalia. It's the one time of year in our very casual university where I feel like an old-skool Professor-with-a-capital-P.

So, I put in my annual order for rental regalia** by e-mail while I was in Exotic Research City, scheduled my research trip and Kalamazoo-related travel so that I would be back to participate. And I was glad I did, because I found out in early April that one of my M.A. students won one of the college's two awards for "best M.A. thesis." Dang. Definitely not missing this year's ceremony.

So, you can imagine how distressed I was to get home from my Excellent Midwestern Adventure to find a note in my inbox to the effect that the College staffer in charge of such things had not submitted any of the orders that our department staff had sent them back in March. Meaning that, although commencement is next week, and although our faculty takes commencement seriously, we (with the exception of those who purchased their own regalia somewhere along the line) will be showing up in Urban University-themed robes and M.A. hoods that the bookstore scrounged together, "though not all sizes may be available."***


**I was very excited, as this was the first year that I remembered my cap size without having to measure: 7 1/2. Yes, I have a big ol' head -- what about it?

***On the other hand, I guess it's an opportunity for me to walk the walk of my egalitarian talk, no?

17 comments:

Historiann said...

That's a drag. Since you are so committed to graduation, you might consider buying your own regalia. The super-fancy custom made choir robes are very expensive, but you might get a Grad U. hood and hat, and wear them with an inexpensive black robe. Considering the costs of rental over the years, it would be worth it to you.

(At least, at my uni faculty have to rent their regalia--it's not provided to them. Which is why it's nice to have my glad rags in the closet, ready for their annual use!)

What's the difference between the M.A. and the Ph.D. hoods anyway? I can never tell, and in all of the confusion with the faculty in different robes, hoods, and hats, I'm sure few if any will notice. (Your students surely won't).

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Right on all counts, H. I've considered buying my own regalia, but for some reason I just haven't gotten around to it. Our university actually pays the rental for us, as a way of encouraging faculty to attend the ceremonies. But I've longed for some better-quality regalia, so maybe this upcoming year will be the year that I finally take the plunge.

More importantly, your comment once again has caused me to go back and rethink a critical disjuncture between what I say and what I'm complaining about. If it really is all about the students, then why should it matter that I have the extra-fancy doctoral stuff?

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Make sure you get one of those puffy octagonal hats! Those are the best thing about having a fucking PhD!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Good point, Comrade! Actually, my dream is to have an entire line of regalia designed by fellow blogger Squadratomagico.

Janice said...

I am in shock that the faculty from another major are allowed to get up and walk out. WTF, people? WTF!

I have to admit that I'm envious. My parents purchased my sister her regalia but just my hood. And I do have a semi-spiffy robe for my degree but as I have to rent a robe for commencement, I just get a plain black robe.

I should bite the bullet and buy the whole damned thing but I have a complicated relationship with commencement (by virtue of being a faculty brat whose birthday fell at commencement week so I never saw my dad for my birthday because it was a week of finals and ceremonies to which he was obligated as a department head).

Historiann said...

I have a colleague in another department from the University of Padua whose doctoral robe includes an ERMINE CAPE!!! It's the coolest (and in May, lamentably the warmest) thing ever. If I had known better, I would have attended the grad school with the most attractive doctoral robe, hood, and hat ensemble. (Oh well--my robes may be burgundy and an oddly bright shade of blue, but they're not nearly as ugly as Princeton's black and orange nightmare!)

I graduated from a college that featured rabbit-fur trimmed "bat robes" for our graduation. I think some of them may have dated to the 19th Century. (But you're a vegetarian, so I'm guessing that fur trim probably isn't up your alley.)

Happy shopping for doctoral robes. (I wonder if you might see about "inheriting" some from a retired or retiring colleague somewhere? They're not the kind of thing you can really dump at Goodwill, but people who are retired probably don't have much use for them and might like to know that they'll be in use during your career.)

One confession: I walk out of our graduations regularly. When it gets to be 2-1/2 or 3 hours long and our grads have already walked, I think it's fair that a few of us can sneak out discretely. (Our graduations always happen on Friday afternoons in the gym and the atmosphere is very rowdy, like a basketball game. The stage is underneath a giant cartoonish ram's head with eyes that glow red and nostrils tat emit smoke! I'm sure I'm neither noticed nor missed.)

squadratomagico said...

Hmmmm, the squadratomagico line of regalia? Let's see.... maybe I'll do hennins instead of mortarboards or tams! And poulaines for the feet! I think that would be awesome!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Fantastic ideas, Sq.! Then we could judge each other by the length (and pointiness!) of our regalia, rather than by CV...

Janice, what a bummer! It's like the faculty-brat version of birthday-over-christmas.

Historiann, I've often thought the same thing about grad school choice. Mine are a bit dull. You hear that, grad students? Get your Ph.D. at Cambridge or Stanford! And be advised that that coveted Harvard Ph.D. may net you a violently fuschia robe.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I haven't been to a graduation since my own. Now you've got me thinking maybe I've got to buy my own regalia and start attending. You wear the regalia of your doctoral institution, correct? I'm gonna get a custom pocket inside my robe to hold a flask of MFJ!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Silly Physioprof! That's what the big, floppy sleeves and the pocket in the hood are for!

pakurilecz said...

the phrase is "walk the talk" not "walk the walk"
"It means to do as you say you would do, to be consistent with your words and actions. Another cliche that means the same thing is: practice what you preach. It means to do as you say you would"

Clio Bluestocking said...

I would totally wear a Squadro designed robe. I might even wear it more often than graduation!

LanglandinSydney said...

You ask, "If it really is all about the students, then why should it matter that I have the extra-fancy doctoral stuff?" Well... BECAUSE it's about the students is why it matters! It shows how seriously the faculty take graduation. And, the students and their parents love it!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

If you are required to go to graduation and you itemize your deductions, you can count the robes as a business expense, or so I hear...

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Sign me up for the Squadrato-designed hennin (or how about the horned headdress?), even though I love my velvet tam. I have garish robes, and I get a lot of questions about them, though I prefer the color of Sir John's & am glad to have them as a back-up when I haven't got round to stitching up a fallen hem.

Anonymous said...

I think you can deduct the price of the robe even if you aren't required to go. It is reasonably part of you duties and is a uniform of sorts.

feMOMhist said...

found puffy tam on Ebay of all places this year and keep hoping to come across correct hood (so should have let my parents purchase mine when they offered flush with the pride of having Dr. Daughter). There are some SERIOUSLY pimped out profs at TTLAC where attendance is mandatory (although I swear a few senior folk sneak books up there to read, shame on them). If I gotta go, may as well look good, right?