I’m going to do an academic’s year in pictures from now until next May. Not every day, but as many as I can do. Seems a better way to communicate about what goes into faculty life.
So let’s start at the end of the academic year, with graduation.
Swarthmore’s graduation ceremonies strike me as very earnest and suited to the institution. They’re fairly low-key, relatively intimate, and focused very much on our own community. We rarely invite speakers with no previous connection to the college. I generally enjoy going to commencement and have rarely missed it. I do not usually go to baccalaureate the day before, but I attend my department’s reception that day for our graduates.
It was interesting to see the intensity of feeling in this discussion of faculty attendance at graduation ceremonies at Inside Higher Education. Many of Swarthmore’s faculty attend year after year, but that’s a reflection of the degree to which most of us feel a strong responsibility to and for the institution. Where most faculty do not attend, I think that is probably a sign that the ceremonies themselves may need some redesign and that the institutional culture has strayed towards a very impersonal, consumerist delivery of services. If a college or university (and its faculty) make more exalted claims about the culture and community of higher education, then that ought to extend into a sense of commitment to the rituals that sustain those claims.