A Little Much

I just finished an article about a graduation ceremony in South Carolina where people who cheered during the event were arrested.  I will admit that the details are a little sketchy, and the authors of the story did not offer a lot of information regarding the level of cheering committed (for lack of a better word) by those who were arrested.

Going on the information supplied by the reporter, I’ll come right out and say that this is ridiculous.  Having participated in two graduations and attended numerous others, I can say that I have seen my share of cheering at graduations, even some over-cheering.  I graduated with 832 people in high school, and my last name is near the end of the alphabet so I know what it is like to sit there and have to wait for a couple of hours for your name to be called.

A couple of decades ago, I saw a friend graduate from UT.  They, of course, split their graduations up into schools.  This cut the time somewhat, but as the school is huge, it still took a while.  I remember as the names were called that different areas of the stadium would erupt in a sort of unrestrained hysteria.  I chuckled to myself as I thought, “this must be what it is like at a Tourettes convention.”  I waited patiently, and cheered for my friend with the rest of his friends and family.

There are many reasons that people feel the need to cheer at the graduation of a love one.  Honestly, attaining this diploma may be the highest achievement of some of the graduates’ lives.  For some, they may be the first in their family to graduate from high school or college.  For others, their hard work has earned them a scholarship to college or a good job after college.  For the kid who got hooked on drugs and almost dropped out of school or got pregnant and went back to finish, these may be huge victories.  For some of the audience, the pride and love they feel for their loved one at this time may be overwhelming, and for those who find it hard to express their feelings in words, this may be the opportunity to let their love be known.

It seems however, the a lot of school officials have forgotten the reason for the occasion.  This is something that they are forced to do that may take hours.  They want to put on a show so they’ll feel like they have given the audience a reason to be there, but the whole reason the audience has come is to chronicle the event in their loved one’s life and to help them feel support.

I do not have a problem with certain Prohibitions during these ceremonies.  If the school officials want to ban air-horns from the proceedings, for example, that’s just fine.  These can actually damage a person’s hearing.  And, there is a limit to the celebration that one should express for their loved ones who are graduating.  Common sense would dictate that the celebration be short and sweet so as not to keep the next person’s name from being heard.

If the people who are cheering fail to restrain themselves or become a nuisance, there is remedy for that, an usher can escort them from the premises.  Some officials might say, “This plays right in their hands.  They get to act out for their loved one, and then they get to leave during the ceremony while the rest have to stay.”  I say that this is just the cost of doing business.  Their will always be a couple of asses in a crowd like this.  There is no need to compound this by becoming an ass yourself and having them put into handcuffs and taken to jail over it.

I have even more of a problem with holding the diploma of a student whose friends and relatives cheer and making them do “community service” for the school to receive it after the ceremony.  ‘F’ that.  There is no way in hell that I am doing community service for a school over something that someone else did.  This, of course, will be tested in court, and the schools will lose (and so will the taxpayers who have to foot the bill for the trial).

There is a solution to this whole problem.  Shorten the ceremony.  Cut the fat.  Allow only the principle (or the person delivering the commencement address) and the valedictorian to speak, no band concert, no salutatorian, no dramatic presentation, no singling out the top 10 for recognition,…nothing.  Then slow it down when the kids start to get their diplomas.  There is no need to treat this as a cattle call and rush them all through.  Take your time and pause between each name to give a few seconds for response.  This way everyone can get it out of their systems.  And, really, that is the reason they came in the first place.