Devon Dick, Contributor
AT THE recent University of the West Indies (UWI) graduation, honorary graduand Prof Hugh Wynter, in giving the graduation address, stated the four steps to achievement as plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, and pursue persistently. He also added that graduation was a time of celebration.
However, the celebration had to be UWI style. The chancellor Sir George Alleyne gave his customary lecture on how to celebrate. He reminded the gathering that catcalls are for football matches and rock concerts, not for UWI graduation. He gave his seal of approval for what is appropriate behaviour. And once, when he felt the audience was getting out of line, he shouted into the microphone, "Please, please". There was a chancellor, who will remain nameless, who stopped a graduation exercise because some persons failed to honour the prohibition on clapping, which clapping affected the dignity of the graduation ceremony. Now UWI graduation is allowing clapping. We need to thank God for small mercies.
Some four years ago, at my daughter's graduation, she said to me not to engage in any catcall when her name was called. Naturally, I did not disobey her wish. However, if other persons want to engage in catcalls and shouts of joy, what is wrong? Should we not allow for diversity in expressions once there are no degrading statements or lewd comments? Some persons shout because that graduate is the first in the family to graduate from a tertiary institution. Some are overjoyed because the graduate is a potential breadwinner. There ought to be greater tolerance. I wonder how the UWI dignitaries felt last year when Dr Usain Bolt was conferred with an honorary doctorate and he made his trademark pose and caused the graduates to erupt.
don't force people to be stoic
I remember attending a university graduation in the United States of America and a person of African origin, who had dreadlocks, hugged the Caucasian chancellor. No other graduate did that. What would happen if an overexuberant graduate should hug Chancellor Alleyne? We should refrain from trying to make people become stoic, seemingly indifferent to, or unaffected by, joy, misery, pleasure, or pain. Compare a 2008 graduation exercise at the University of Warwick in England where there were instances of foot stomping, shouting and standing ovations for graduates. That would be considered outlandish to celebrate in like manner at UWI.
Thankfully, there were elements of joyous celebration by the University Singers with a rousing rendition of Can't Give up Now. So great was the rendition that a young person remarked that she wanted to join the University Singers. Perhaps the future for our young, and in education, rests in our creative arts, our culture.
Celebration is not only about 'feel good', but should involve honest analysis. Therefore, it was expected that administration and students would have apologised for the behaviour of students who disrupted an exam and also destroyed property. In addition, there was no mention of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Independence of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Perhaps, because the UWI's visitor is Her Majesty the Queen, then it would be inappropriate to celebrate the Independence of those territories.
There could be a few enhancements to the graduation celebrations, such as having the names of the graduates displayed on the big screen when they are being presented to the chancellor. Also, the principal of the university and the vice-chancellor should not be on the platform for their mere presence but, rather, to lead the ceremony into a time of blissful celebration.
Rev Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of The Cross and the Machete, and Rebellion to Riot. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.