I am grateful to my colleagues who are willing to don academic regalia and march in a crowd of similarly-attired professors and administrators in the fall convocation ceremony. The sight of professors in their academic robes and caps no doubt inspires students with awe, thereby igniting intellectual fires and whatnot.
I did the convocation thing once and will likely not do it again. The one time I agreed to do it, I did not have tenure and I was made to feel that it would be a really good thing for me to participate in this ritual. I was also curious about what it felt like to be on the 'other side' of a convocation ceremony. When I was an undergraduate, I liked going to the fall all-college gathering; it was a nice way to start the academic year.
The one time I marched in a convocation as a professor, I rented academic robes etc. that had the right colors, stripes, glyphs, and cap for the institution that granted my Ph.D., put the silly things on, and went to find my place in line with the other professors. As I walked past the other professors, all similarly and absurdly attired, a number of them smiled at me. I smiled back, thinking that perhaps the wearing-of-the-robes was a sort of professorial bonding experience. But no.. One of the smiling professors said to me "We all love it when PhD's from your university march in convocation. You have by far the most hideous academic robes and it makes the rest of us look good." Strong words for a man in a velvet beanie. I just smiled back and said "I specifically went to that university so that I might one day wear this spectacular robe." So there.
I told my daughter this story last year when she was upset that friends at her elementary school had criticized her attire. I was glad that she thought the story was hilarious rather than demoralizing. I am also glad that marching in convocation is voluntary, and that I have tenure.
9 months ago