By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor
For the past four years, convocation time has been an absolute nightmare as a student still slogging through classes. For reasons I have never been able to understand, the celebration is held in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the school. This makes getting from one end of campus to the other within a 10 minute break (while also trying not to photobomb a happy grad photo with my sleep-deprived zombie shuffle) next to impossible.
And then there’s the bagpipes. You know how listening to someone snore while you’re still awake is like listening to them brag about how well they’re sleeping? Yeah, those bagpipes are the smug honks of students who are cheerfully skipping out of university while you’re desperately trying to hear what your professor is saying about standard deviations.
The only thing that has made this stressful, anxiety inducing, twice-annual inconvenience bearable has been the knowledge that one day, one day, it would be me dressing up and standing in the middle of the hallway taking selfie after selfie and blissfully ignoring the second year trying to squeeze through without making eye contact.
So you can imagine that finishing my last semester under pandemic lockdown was a bit . . . anticlimactic, to say the least.
But OK, you know what? Fair is fair. No one planned for a novel coronavirus to be the viral (ha!) trend of 2020. Everyone had to make adjustments and, as disappointing as it was, it’s better to not have a convocation than to risk the infection of hundreds of people. And besides, there would be a virtual convocation. That’s better than nothing.
Except, maybe it would have been? Maybe it’s just me being bitter about four years of hard work culminating in a mass conferring of degrees without a single graduand name other than the honour speakers even appearing on the screen. I think a somber acknowledgement that now is not the time to celebrate would have been preferable to what felt like a half-assed, cobbled together, “Thanks for all your money, you’ll be hearing from the alumni association very soon,” kick-in-the-ass out the door.
I sent my parents that link. My parents, who have reacted to my attending university with skepticism at best and outright mockery at worst. I wanted them to see my name somewhere, and to be proud that their eldest daughter had done something that no one else in the family has done. I can’t even imagine what they thought after seeing that live stream. I finished watching the video and was disappointed. They probably watched the video and had all their suspicions confirmed. Four years and $45,000, huh? You could have banked that and bought a house. You don’t even have a job. What a stupid decision.
Meanwhile the university directed people to a separate web page to read the new graduates’ self-made messages and watch their 10-second video clips — as if we couldn’t have done this on our own without any involvement from the institution. They had months to plan this, and the whole thing felt as though it was taped together in a panic like a student realizing at 10 p.m. that their presentation is due tomorrow morning and not next week.
And I know this whole thing sounds incredibly selfish with the world burning in so many unbelievable, unbearable ways. But I was really looking forward to this convocation as a single, brief moment to feel good about myself, my achievements, and the achievements of my friends — one that was sorely needed during a time that has frankly created one giant black hole where my mental health once was. But instead of feeling like I’d actually achieved something monumental and worthwhile, I closed the link feeling hopeless and defeated.
The university could have done so much more with minimal effort. A reading of names. A graphic of graduands by department. A goddamn slideshow of all the photos submitted. It didn’t feel like the students were being celebrated. It felt like the university was celebrating itself. Which, on thinking about it, could very well be the overarching point of the whole thing.
I just wish someone had told me that four years ago when I first began fantasizing about crossing the reflection pool, cap on head and hopes in hand.