Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Moving right along. . .

So! It is totally time to get that last post knocked off the top of my blog. Whaddaya want to hear about? RU's graduation? Driving myself to the emergency room? The (possible) end of a six-year relationship? All of which happened, consecutively, over the course of, like, five hours on the same day?

Well, you can forget about the last two, although I'll observe that they do have their similarities: it's been a few days, and neither is exactly resolved, but at least neither is causing me consistent pain. . . and in this world, maybe that's as good as it gets.

So let me talk about RU's graduation instead. Seeing as I have three degrees from the same institution and this is my first tenure-track job, this is only the third school whose graduation I've ever attended (the second being my brother's). I was surprised to learn that faculty at RU aren't really expected to attend graduation, and that many people consider it a chore: my chair, whom I adore, confided that she has to go because it's in her contract, and that she and a couple of senior lecturers are usually the only ones from the department who go--and they read books and grade papers surreptitiously and just try not to make total spectacles of themselves.

Even with that warning, I volunteered to join them. I figured that I should check the scene out, get a bit of my money's worth from my eight hundred dollars of regalia--and because really: compared to all the truly bullshit events that one is more or less expected to go to as a faculty member, graduation is something that actually means something to the bulk of its participants, and that represents what the institution is or should be all about.

And, well, it was a graduation more or less like the others I've been to, although I don't think it's unkind to say that it was a somewhat lower-rent version of what I've seen before: still lots of faculty in pretty robes, although fewer seemed to own their own than at INRU; still a couple of maces and a massive, blindingly gold-toned medallion for the university's president--but these items looked pretty cheap. (The medallion, in particular, looked like something you'd pick up as part of a drugstore Halloween costume.) The couple of recipients of honorary doctorates were reasonably impressive alumni or faculty. The main speakers were our state's senior Senator and an alumnus who's apparently a well-known investigative journalist; they were funny, self-deprecating, uplifting without being sappy--and they spoke for a flat 10 minutes each.

The whole thing was. . . nice. Efficiently run. And since I have a weird interest in the logistics and management of such events, I was continually diverted: oh! the graduates approach the stage from both directions, and two people read out names! And those are the kinds of people who get to sit on the stage! (This species of geekiness may be the vestiges of the years I spent managing the INRU marching band, or evidence of some latent administrative urges. Dunno. But I do really like to know How Things Work.)

Would I go again? Probably. It's not too long and it's not too early in the day, and it's after the close of the semester. And I DO have prettier robes than just about anybody else.

(But. . . you already knew that it was about the clothes, didn't you?)

23 comments:

phd me said...

Oh, how funny: I went to graduation at my new school, too, and my thoughts were pretty much the same as yours! I was absolutely shocked at how many faculty appeared to rent their robes (because if they paid for those wrinkled shiny black things, they were robbed). I have beautiful robes, if I may say so myself, and they showed to great advantage. Yes, it is totally all about the clothes.

(And it's good to have you back, though I wish it was sans pain in any form.)

klk said...

Well, I've been renting for years, and will again this year, but I just got tenure, for which I plan to reward myself by buying pretty robes (my doctorate comes from a place with special colors). However, the hundreds of bucks competes with kids, house, etc.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I've always rented, too, and sat in the wrinkled black robes - way too cheap (broke) to spend $800 on the regalia! (even though my U's regalia is particularly nice.) Also, Rural Utopia paid for faculty rentals, so it was a no-brainer. My current job, the faculty have to pay, so I was going to break down and buy some real robes, but never got around to it in the fall...and now I'm so glad I didn't buy them!

I'm just distressed about the emergency room mention and hope that you are okay!

Z said...

Flavia,
Did you buy your regalia from your alma mater directly? My alma mater charges a total of about $750 for the full regalia. But are there companies out there that make regalia for various schools and sell them cheaper than the school itself?

I wouldn't mind having the stuff but wish I could get it cheaper than that.

Professor B said...

Hi Flavia,

I've gone to commencement every year since I've worked here - for a lot of the same reasons; I feel it is one of the more meaningful events that faculty can attend (though the attitude here seems similar to at RU - a chore, and I also like to break out the robes and explain regalia to people. My grad institution has pretty distinctive robes and so I always stand out.

As for finding cheaper versions, there are some web outfits that do substantially cheaper options (like half of what school charge). This is what I did, and it is very nice, but not quite as nice as the real deal. It also depends on the school.

RageyOne said...

I've heard several faculty here, in other departments, complain about graduaion. I've always been baffled as to why they do so. I find it to be a joyous experience for the grads and that is the point of the job, right? To propel people on to graduation, right? Why not celebrate that and all that it involves? I found the apathy toward graduation to be a bit disturbing.

prof said...

Our institution rents our regalia too. My parents bought me my doctoral hood from Big Football U, which was a nice gift. Now I'm tempted to buy a soft cap for graduation. I saw a guy who spent $500 on his own (black) Ph.D. gown and it looked absolutely no different from the rental gowns that almost everyone else had. So this is my thought -- own the hood and cap, and let my school rent the gown. $800 for 3 hrs/year of actual wear time just does not seem worth it to me.

Texter said...

I just finished my phd and will not be "walking" for a variety of reasons. I certainly do not have the money to buy the hood/gown etc. The liberal arts college where I teach requires all full-time faculty (tenured(track) and visiting) to go to graduation, which I find perfectly reasonable.
When I get a tenure-track job (yes, when!) I will attend, and hadn't yet considered what I'll do about the regalia. But, well, some of us just don't have it in our budget.... Maybe once I'm ensconced in a tenure-track I'll feel differently (or can justify it to myself more solidly). I would *like* to have that symbol of this accomplishment. But really, it's about the ritual. I actually can't wait to go to a graduation ceremony for a school for which I am faculty and with students I can follow throughout their careers. I'm a true-blood academic.

Flavia said...

To answer some questions: my alma mater contracts with a place called Oak Hall, which has I believe exclusive rights to produce institution-specific academic regalia for about a hundred different schools (amusingly, they also seem to do a big business in choir robes). As far as I know, there's no knock-off internet racket, although there ought to be.

And yes, my robes are a special and very recognizable color/design. Funnily enough, one of the two other faculty members at commencement who had INRU robes was sitting directly in front of me. (We exchanged the secret handshake, etc.)

As for the expense: I'm not implying that I think everyone should (and certainly not that everyone could!) spend the money. But anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm kinda about the clothes, so I'd have put them on the credit card had my parents not bought them as a graduation gift.

Oh, and FYI: academic regalia counts as a tax write-off--it's in the same category as a professional uniform.

Horace said...

The robes I had for my hooding were $90 acetate crap, and so I've never been to graduation, partially because of the regalia matter. My alma mater's regalia is, literally, stunning: bright, bright red. So I'm not going to get that. I wonder though if a generic humanities regalia is in the works. By next spring, I will have been here long enough to knpw many of the grads, and so I'll probably want to go, even if it mean I bring a book along.

Sisyphus said...

I totally want to know what the colors of fancy INRU robes are!!! But I understand that your secret superhero identity must not be compromised.

Instead I want to take a different tack and out myself as someone else who ran things and caused trouble in marching band, although more in high school than college (I did choose my undergrad largely on the fact that the school marching band had capes, though. Think of it! Capes! So I'm all about the snazzy clothes and uniforms.)

Now, if they dressed up the faculty in uniforms with capes and had them march formations at graduation ... hmm! That would be worth paying to see!

What Now? said...

Oh, it's all about the clothes. My grad school has lovely robes -- such that every time I wore them, multiple colleagues would comment on how beautiful they were -- and at St. Martyr's faculty were required to wear them at four events each year, which means I got my money's worth out of them (well, probably not actually $800 worth, but still -- they're fabulous!).

That being said, I have discovered the first downside to being a high school teacher, which is that, at my new school at least, faculty don't wear academic robes for graduation. :-( So now I'm feeling a little sad at the thought of never wearing them again.

But I really commented to say: emergency room? Okay, don't tell us the whole story, but do give us a little info so we know how much to be worrying.

Bardiac said...

Well, you blogged, so that means your hands and brain work, so I hope that means that the emergency room visit wasn't too serious! Feel free to reassure us, though.

At my first job, we had to wear regalia four or five times a year, and people got very cranky about the fine points (such as administrators without grad degrees wearing hoods... silliness!). I love Hopkins bumble bee suits.

My department's required to send two people to each graduation ceremony, and we have one old robe hanging on a door in the office that many folks use. I've also lent out mine a couple times, figuring I may as well get some use out of it. I like graduation ceremonies, but am skipping this year.

Flavia said...

Oh yeah: the emergency room! Thanks for your concern.

Suffice to say that I woke up on Friday with an entirely unexpected and unprovoked minor malady. Didn't think much of it. The next morning, though, it was much worse and a little scary. But it was a weekend, and I didn't yet have a GP in New City, so at graduation my colleagues told me I should really go to the emergency room because they didn't think it could wait until Monday.

I think they were right. I got treatment for it, and it's been better. . . but then I saw a GP today, who thought it wasn't nearly as much better as it should be by now & who gave me a different kind of treatment.

With luck, it will be totally resolved in a week or so. (Nothing's broken and it's not a disease or anything--just a random health event.)

anthony grafton said...

Flavia, hope you're better soon!

Graduation is a hoot--I can't see why any long-term prof who's in town wouldn't want to see his or her students graduate.

I inherited my (severe, plain black) Chicago doctoral robe from a professor who was also an alum, and whose two sons-in-law were several inches shorter than either of us. Since we were dead broke when I got the PhD, I didn't buy the hood or hat, and for years went to graduation hoodless and with an ancient, frayed mortarboard.

Last year, though, I received an honorary degree, which came with a spectacular, colorful cape, and my beloved wife bought me an octagonal floppy hat. Nowadays, accordingly, I look much more respectable on the platform. There are consolations for growing into old farthood--though like this one, they're relatively small.

Tiruncula said...

My doctoral robes are quite distinctive and visible from a great distance. I like them, but the particular color means I can never sit next to friends who went to INRU's rival.

I'm jealous of thosen with floppy hats. I've been thinking of asking a former student who's studied costume design to make me a floppy hat - protocol be damned.

medieval woman said...

Oh, I'm totally wearing my regalia as much as I possibly can - the D and I bought ours together (our initials are inside to keep them straight. That and the fact that my robes are made to fit hobbity-me!). But they were so expensive, I'm wearing them to the grocery store on a cold day, cocktail parties, mosh pits, etc I, too, like the floppy Henry VIII hats and I look like a raisin when I wear mine - distinctive color!

Glad to hear you're on the mend!

Flavia said...

T: after some serious Google image-searching, I located your institution's robes. And. . . wow. Just: wow.

Do you wear a mortarboard? We're given the option, and so of course I went floppy hat all the way.

Anonymous said...

Sis -

Kindergrad???

That's all I have to say.

(But seriously, Kindergrad?)

- scr

Flavia said...

Bro: I know! Did you see the *class rings* they make for kindergrads, too?

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I hate Grad U's robes -- Blue with a burnt orange -- but I want them anyway. When I can afford them (i.e., when I can find an accountant to make sure that I can deduct them, since I generally have to take the standard deduction these days), I shall buy them. We don't have a cool cap option, though -- well, kind of. We can go with a traditional mortarboard or with a velvet 4-point cap. I have the hood we were given, and am seriously wondering if maybe I should just buy the thing a part at a time. Or if the hood we were given is the same one I'd buy?

anthony grafton said...

Octagonal floppy hat for me!

Flavia said...

Oh, and Sisyphus--sorry, I forgot to respond to your extremely important marching band comment! I too was somewhat directed in my college choice by the insitution's marching band, although I was looking for a different kind of band; let's just say that I very nearly went to that school up the coast from you whose band has been banned from various institutions, airlines, etc., for life.

The INRU marching band is awesome--certainly the best in its football league, if you're measuring by teh funny--but it doesn't have that kind of public profile. Or probably that kind of police file.