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Commencement Programs Without Names: Here’s the Real Story

We’ve been here before. The College ends a long-cherished tradition, and puts forward an excuse for its decision that is just laughable:

Commencement No Names in Programs 2018 Comp.jpg

Come again? In an era of digital typesetting and high-speed printing, when the date for Commencement is set years in advance, this year the administration can’t find a printer in the way that it has always found a printer in the past. Mon oeil, as the saying goes.

Two years ago, the College announced that diplomas would not longer be distributed to graduates at the June 12, 2016 Commencement, as had always been joyously the case:

Commencement Diplomas Pre-2016.jpg

I ran a post about that disappointing decision on June 3 of that year, having learned about the change at the crack of dawn on June 2, which means that the powers-that-be had made their decision no later than June 1.

On June 11, The D quoted College spokesperson Diana Lawrence as saying “the primary reason for the decision not to give out diplomas during the ceremony was the risk of inclement weather and the threat this posed to the diplomas.” Ha! On the day before Commencement when The D reported the story, its reporter noted that the risk of precipitation on the following day was only 20%.

Amazing how the College can forecast the weather twelve days in advance. can’t do so on my iPhone.

So what really happened in 2016? I reported:

Sources from inside the administration tell me that the real reason diplomas will not be handed out is that students who have not finished all of their requirements, to their public shame, receive only a white sheet of paper — and this group of blank paperpushers is disproportionately populated by underrepresented minorities.

Quel embarras for the College. Embarrassing on two counts. Firstly, because all of the deans and administrators and support staff who the College pays to assist people of color are spending more time filling students’ heads with nonsense about safe spaces, microagressions, oppression and such, and not nearly enough time providing academic support so that students can pass their classes. And secondly, because in this era of rampant grade inflation, Dartmouth is accepting a great many students who are nonetheless unprepared to do passing-level work at an Ivy League level.

Since when does the embarrassment of the minority drive decisions at the College? Actually, there is no need to answer that rhetorical question. It’s been a long time. That said, shouldn’t people learn at some point in their lives to accept the consequences of their actions. If you don’t have enough credits; you don’t get a piece of parchment with printing on it. Whose fault is that?

Diana Lawrence wrote to me yesterday that students can have their name in the program with their class if they are close to meeting the requirements for graduation:

In recent years, the commencement program has included all students who have had their degrees conferred by the board of trustees in the current academic year, as well as participants (students who are within four credits of degree completion and identified as such in the graduation list).

I expect that the decision to end the printing of names in the Commencement program comes from the same place as the choice to stop giving out diplomas — the fear of hurting the feelings of students who have not completed their degree requirements.

That’s not a good excuse.

Addendum: An alumnus sees through the printing explanation:

This is ludicrous. They have a beautiful print office at Dartmouth. They print our class newsletters on new digital printers (and save us a lot of money over the other local print companies). I have a feeling that someone doesn’t know how to order the program print job properly.

Addendum: An alumnus/parent writes in:

As the father of a graduating senior, I think this is outrageous. For $300,000, the College could at least give me the satisfaction of seeing my kid’s name in the program book at graduation.

Addendum: A member of the faculty writes in:

I received an email about this subject last weekend while attending graduation at one of Dartmouth’s peer schools. I laughed out loud when I got the email. This school has the same number of days between finals and graduation and still manages a beautiful program.

As someone who will be grading seniors finals this year, I know how the system works. There’s a shorter deadline for final grades for graduating students and Dartmouth will know by June 7 the grades of all potential graduates. Every single college in the nation is in this predicament with graduation shortly after the term ends, and with some seniors’ graduation status dependent on their final term grades.

Something strange is going on that has nothing to do with Dartmouth’s official explanation.


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