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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1902

Graduation Day

page 6

Graduation Day.

How old customs linger! Whether the noise and horse-play that are now often the concomitants of granting degrees in our university colleges are a survival of the ancient university disputations, or of the students' liberty of criticism that was necessary when there was no newspaper, is of little moment. The time has surely come when this ancient practice may well be abandoned.

The students do much better in the universities of the United States of America. I have before me accounts of how Graduation Day is kept in various American universities. In them they are able to separate serious business from jollity and frivolity. In the Leland Stanford Junior University there are two great days, one following the other, "Alumni Day" and "Commencement Day." The first is the Graduates and Under-graduate's Day. In 1897 the programme was as follows:— In the forenoon there was a farce written and performed by the seniors. The Alumni Association met-at 3.30, elected officers for the ensuing twelve months, and heard two papers read by graduates. These were puolished by the university. After this meeting was over there was what we would call "a banquet. " The Americans called it "a luncheon." At this luncheon there were toasts and short speeches, and one of the lady graduates read a witty poem of her own composition. I give a short extract :—

"Given a gelatine, germ-filled mind,
Develop the crinkles by gradual grind.
Select all the frolicsome foibles away,
And only the fittest of crochets will stay
Until it increase to the standard enlargement.
When lo! the proprietor waves us a parchment
Thus a college career overlooking its sequels,
A logical process Darwinian equals."

The addresses delivered by the graduates are often able. In 1895 there were three, all worth reading:—"The Educated Man in the Coming Era," "What's the use of Education?" "The Everlasting Beauty of Character." In 1897 the two were The Industrial Problem" and "Behold the Tabernacle of God with Men."

page 7

On Commencement Day the degrees are granted, and one of the professors delivers a carefully prepared address on some educational topic, and the president generally reviews the past work and sketches future prospects. I have several of these addresses; one delivered in 1893, I would like to see circulated throughout our colony. It is entitled, "The American University and the American Man."

Other universities have similar arrangements, some compressing, however, in one day the students' programme and the university programme.

No one objects to the students having their amusements; the question is when should they be held. If we cannot nave two days, as in the Leland Stanford Junior University, might we not have one day, arranged somewhat as follows:—
1.The degrees should be granted at 11 a.m. The chancellor, or whoever presides, should first deliver a short speech dealing with the progress for the year of the university, and specially of the college where the degrees are granted, and, lastly, someone should deliver an address on the relation of the university to our education system and to our civic life.
2.A luncheon should be held.
3.After that the University Association should meet. and elect its officers, and have one or more short papers on questions of interest to the students read.
4.In the evening there should be a students entertainment-songs, farces, dances, etc.

I believe some arrangement of this kind would in the end be more agreeable to the students and more helpful to the university. The present mode of degree granting is, I am sure neither one nor the other. We require to popularise our university work. It is necessary that the public should be on the side of universities. That is not the case now. The Victoria University College might well set the example to the older colleges by starting a new method of managing the important function of granting degrees. At present what happens makes the judicious grieve and only the unthinking laugh.

Robert Stout.