No Joy This Year!

I love graduations! So much so, that I have had three of my own, and I always volunteered to attend, much to the delight of other professors in my department! It’s a day of pure joy.

Parents are happy, particularly those who have been paying for college so so long, that they had come to think of their adult child as a perennial student. They are the parents who give the biggest hugs and thank-yous to professors after the ceemony, wanting to take the picture of this miracle-worker.

Students are eleated, as no more papers, or, as one student wrote me this week, unnecessary busy work. I started to write her back that I never give busy work, but I couldn’t justify the high ground in the middle of a pandemic, when what we professors think is the most important essay the students will ever write seems so unconsequential.

On Graduation Day, students whose papers you have purpled to death (I don’t use red ink, as that putatively causes depression among students) see you as the best thing to cornbread. All is forgiven, and you will never be forgotten.

In my robe, all hooded and capped, I got a real thrill out of marching with all of the other professors into the venue after the students and families are seated. Our head high, we thought, “here comes the real powerhouses of this show!” We walked as if we were the only ones who have ever instilled knowledge in these young neanderthals who showed up four years ago emptyheaded and in need of our liberal messages.

We strut to the best seats in the house, looking very proud of ourselves. If you are one of the lucky ones, your students shout your name out loud, “Dr. So and So,” and they cheer you. When that has happened to me, I always felt like a movie star and a queen, all rolled into one persona: greatest of all time.

Yes, it is a moment of an unbridled sense of importance. But if you are as smart as you think you are, you know also that it’s a false premise, so you don’t want to get caught up in the hype! There lies a rude awakening!

I always had my Kindle under my robe, because when it comes time to call 1000 names, the vast majority you have not taught, you need something to do to dispel the ennui. But, I kept an eye open for my students, so I could give them a shoutout as they crossed the stage.

The profesors are happy, too. Papers are graded and we are free for about a week, before we have to finish a paper for publication, so we can continue to live in this ivory tower. But, for a few hours, it is glorious fun, to feel as though you have made a difference.

But, in a pandemic, all of that stops. No graduations! No closure for the thousands of college graduates who have endured four or more years of “busy work” just for the day they would march into the arena or auditorium, with all eyes on them. They are the true stars of the day!

They wait with bated breath for the moment when they will move the tassel from right to left, as directed by one of the speakers. Now, they are certified graduates with the credentials needed for a job.

I pray that next year, we can return to this amazing exhibition of unbridled goodness and laughter and love. I want to hear parents and other scream loud and blow horns when they hear the name of their graduate, even though the president has made a plea for silence so everyone can hear the names. I don’t blame them for ignoring his order, as this moment is the culmination of great effort and a lot of money spent.

So, maybe next year, parents, you can scream to your heart’s content. Aint nobody mad at ya! To the Class of 2020, Congratulations! Job Well Done!

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