2 years ago at my sons graduation from Michigan Tech University, I blogged about some of the disruptive behavior that occurred during what I considered a momentous occasion in an individuals life. Everything from people talking loudly to each other, to loud shouts and screaming during the ceremony, to standing up and blocking other people’s view (because their individual had had their moment of fame). I have had 4 of my kids graduate from high school and 3 of them graduate from college, so I feel I am pretty qualified to speak about the subject with 5 graduation ceremonies under my belt in the last 5 years at 3 different institutions.
So it was with great interest that I picked up on an article in the St. Cloud Times last week headlined “Noisy and Disruptive Behavior May Lead to Changes in Apollo, Tech (St. Cloud’s 2 public high schools) Graduations. Apparently after Thursday’s Apollo High School’s graduation, St. Cloud Superintendent Steve Jordahl was so upset, he made opening comments at Friday’s Tech H.S. ceremony regarding what conduct he expected.
The list of problems was the usual culprits. People using cell phones, moving around during the ceremony, people coming late, people leaving early and of course the shouting out and screaming during the announcement of names. The feel of the staff is that the graduations took on more the decorum of a sporting event than a ceremony. The administration thought they had taken some proactive action on this problem based upon the past few years. 2 years ago they moved the graduation ceremony from the 6000 seat National Hockey Center to the smaller basketball gymnasium at St. Cloud State University. Letters were even mailed out to parents explaining conduct expectations.
Considering the article generated 155 comments, people have strong feelings towards this. I talked to one of my son’s whose point of view was in the minority among the responses. His take is this is the student’s day, they are not doing anything criminal, and it is their right to celebrate all their hard work. His spin…this event is for the students…not necessarily for the parents. The majority of the comments though were that the conduct had become “disruptive, rude and disrespectful” in every way.
My opinion is that there is blame to be spread around to both students/parents and administration. Anyone that has been to a recent graduation ceremony knows they can be 1) long and 2) boring. Sound systems are poor, speakers are dry, and they go on FOREVER. It’s no wonder why people come late and leave early. (I have to mention again that at my son’s MTU graduation they even had the concession stands open in the arena selling nachos and popcorn…no wonder people act like it’s a sporting event!)
I did think the St. Cloud administration had some good recommendations. 1) Limit to 4 tickets per graduate. (Many colleges are like this and we don’t have to invite the entire extended family to fill a section to scream). 2) To “dim the lights” when presentations are made to limit the crowd from walking around and being disruptive. Also they would use a spotlight to “zero in” on the single graduate being presented his/her diploma. 3) By having a smaller crowd with limited seating, the events could be brought back to the school campus, creating a smaller more comfortable venue. Some of their other suggestions such as banning photography and having more security guards sounds a bit drastic. Maybe limiting photography would be a better approach. (Again at Michigan Tech Univ…they allowed all sorts of photography and there was never less than 50 people in front of the stage at any given time during the diploma ceremony fighting and elbowing to get that one shot of their kid…not a good scene).
Feel free to express your opinions on a recent graduation ceremony you attended. I have not been to a Bemidji High School graduation (held at the John Glas Fieldhouse at the University) or a Bemidji State University graduation ceremony. I would be interested in an opinion. Bottom line, I am sorry to say the article confirms what I have felt in recent times and that it would be nice if there was a bit more decorum to what really is a ceremony. I hope my grandaughters kindergarten cermony isn’t anything like this!!