One of my senior grad students is under pressure from his parents to finish his thesis in time to participate in the spring graduation ceremony. As it turns out, the university doesn't really care if all the official paperwork is done by graduation ceremony time. They will let pretty much anyone put on the silly gowns and caps and march around and listen to speeches, so I think it will work out just fine for him to enjoy the day with his family, even if his thesis is not completely finished.
My student is nicer than I am. He says he doesn't care about the ceremony, but he will do it if his parents really want him to. I had zero interest in my own grad school graduation ceremony, and did not attend. I think it is fine if someone wants to though. After years of very hard work, if you want to put on the academic robes and be part of a ceremony, go for it.
The two graduation ceremonies I have attended were somewhat stressful, although there were enjoyable aspects as well. In high school, I was the valedictorian of my class, and by tradition, the #1 student gives a speech at graduation and at one other end-of-year function, and is the m.c. of the school awards ceremony. I don't know if a female student had ever done this before or if the school administrators were lacking confidence in me in particular, but they were quite anxious about my having such a major role in these festivities. The principal had a private chat with me to try to convince me that someone else should take on these roles in my place because it was very important that the speeches be done well. Unfortunately for the principal, the top 11 students in my graduating class were female. When he told me that his preferred alternative to me was not one of the many outgoing, bright, and articulate girls he could have selected but instead a smart but goofy male student (#12 in the class), I got mad. So I said I was going to give the speeches, in accord with tradition. I endured a lot of "Are you sure you can do this?" from various school administrators in the weeks leading up to the events, but I did the speeches, they were no more or less boring or profound than any other graduation speeches, and the principal later apologized for doubting me.
My college graduation experience was strange in a different way. For any reader out there who has a shred of doubt remaining as to whether my life is more bizarre than is typical, this should blast away any remaining uncertainty. In fact, I think I've mentioned this incident briefly before, so will keep it short: a friend played a practical joke on me, which I sort of deserved, but which resulted in the campus and environs believing that I was associated with a controversial organization that espoused political views that were in fact quite opposite to my own. Apparently these views were also opposite to many other people's, as I soon began receiving death threats by phone and mail. The college president intervened, as did the local media and other groups, and the threats decreased. Even so, not long before graduation, I got an insidious threat that mentioned snipers waiting for me at graduation. I didn't really believe this, but the thought of snipers hiding in the ivy added an extra element of tension to my graduation ceremony, which was held outdoors.
I probably should have gone to my Ph.D. graduation ceremony. No snipers were promised, I wasn't giving any speeches, and I could have just enjoyed the excitement of being one of many people dressed absurdly and marching around. In fact, I have never regretted missing my graduate graduation, but I will support my student's effort to make his parents happy and finish his thesis in the vicinity of this spring's graduation ceremony.
10 months ago