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June 30, 2008 - Image 26

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-06-30

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141,

Orientation Edition 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Stumbling to a better tradition

Now that we've had a chance
to calm down, it's time for
some final thoughts on
commencement.
Here's a
recap of what
happened:
Administration
miraculously
forgets com-
mencement can't
be held in foot- KARL
ball stadium and STAMPFL
suggests holding
it at Eastern Michigan University's
Rynearson Stadium. Students get
angry, start Facebook groups, blog,
and alert parents, grandparents
and local media outlets, causing
the kind of ruckus that might upset
fundraising. Administration notices
and finally asks students to vote on
where ceremony should be held.
Students vote for Diag.
By the administration's own folly,
the administration and the student
body have stumbled onto a new tra-
dition that may make more sense
than the old tradition.
There are some drawbacks to
holding commencement on the
Diag. For instance, each graduate

gets six tickets instead of eight. But
all things considered the Diag isn't
merely better than Rynearson Sta-
dium. It might also be better than
Michigan Stadium, construction or
no construction.
The Big House is a symbol of
many of the University's glories,
but it is also a symbol of its sins. I'm
probably an above-average sports
fan, but I can recognize that there
are plenty examples of this to fill a
book.
Here's one: Erecting luxury
boxes on the football stadium takes
precedent over making the stadi-
um compliant with the Americans
with Disabilities Act of 1990. Here's
another: The fans in the student
section at footballgames sometimes
come together in support of their
team, but sometimes they tear into
each other with insensitive slurs
(mostly homophobic) and even
violence. In what other part of the
University would this behavior be
socially acceptable?
Holding commencement in the
Big House gives graduates a false
finalimpressionofwhatthisuniver-
sity is about. It's a dangerous exten-
sion of the athletic culture that does

some good but a lot more bad. who are drawn by televised images
Changing this symbolism would of the University's Diag side rather
have tangible effects. than its Big House side.
First, fundraising. For many There are some good reasons for
University students, the last not holding commencement on the
memory of their time in Diag. There's tradition. But
Ann Arbor is graduation isn't a university
day. WhennAb a the kind
alumni tovsiN t (j5s . TIsE
are about L .._..U L +a
to write a-
check to the University 20
years from now, we want /N
them to remember Angell
Hall, not Michigan Sta-
dium. When thousands
of alumni come to com-
mencement every year to
celebrate their daughters', grand-
sons' and nieces' accomplish-
ment, let's give them the visual.-\
clue that the academic side needs
their money more than the ath-
letic side.
Second, the local media covers1
commencement heavily, espe-
cially when there's a prominent \
speaker like Bill Clinton last year.
In the week leading up to the May
1 deadline for high school seniors
to commit to colleges, it would be CARTOON BY ARIELA STEIF
nice to attract the kind of students ORIGINAL VERSION RAN ON JAN. 17, 2008

of place where we have an honest
debate about the traditions that
don't make sense? And there are
logistical concerns.
Maybe commencement on the
Diag will be a calamity. Maybe the
grandparents in the last row who
traveled all the way from New
Mexico to see their grandchildren
graduate won't be able to clearly
hear every word BobWoodruffsays.
Maybe traffic will be so backed up
that people in Chicago will be late
for work on Monday morning.
If the ceremony goes smoothly,
though, the. administration needs
to start a conversation on campus
about whether commencement
should be moved back to Michigan
Stadium if it's ready in April 2009. If
administrators won't - and some-
thing tells me they probably won't
- students should.
Can you imagine a new tradi-
tion in which campus gathers each
spring, flanked by academic build-
ings, the cathedrals of our educa-
tion to send a new class out into the
world?
This column originally ran
in full on Feb. 18, 2008.

I

I

C How to get your Apple Education discount at U of M
U-M Computer Showcase
Michigan Union Ground Floor
530 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
734.647.2537
2 http://showcase.itcs.umich.edu

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