I am writing to express my dismay and disappointment over the University of MinnesotaâÄôs decision to cancel fall commencement for the College of Liberal Arts. As the parent of a graduating senior I fail to see how a cake and punch reception can come close to appropriately acknowledging the academic achievements and financial investment of earning a bachelorâÄôs degree from the University. Surely, there must be a creative solution to this dilemma.
This announcement runs counter to what I expected under the leadership of President Eric Kaler. In the spring issue of Reach, Kaler said the liberal arts are âÄúthe reason there is a university âÄ¦ ItâÄôs an absolute core competency, and we have to protect it. I will invest in it, and they will not wane. On my watch, that will not happen.âÄù Clearly, there is a disconnect between words and actions.
As a communications professional with alumni relations and development experience, I know how important tradition and celebration are to encouraging loyalty and advocacy among alumni. In fact, research indicates that pride in oneâÄôs alma mater runs highest right as a student enters alumni status âÄî without a commencement ceremony, that pride diminishes.
Canceling fall commencement for the UniversityâÄôs largest college is short sighted and a missed opportunity to garner pride among the UniversityâÄôs newest graduates and future donors. Private colleges and universities without state support have understood this for a long time. Fundraising from alumni to meet operating expenses, research and scholarships will only become more important to fill the hole diminishing state support leaves.
The fact that this announcement has fueled considerable buzz in the media indicates that the tradition of commencement still matters to students, parents, faculty and alumni. Engaging students and building affinity while they are on campus (not five months later) are obvious keys to the long-term success of any institution. If parent volunteers are needed to facilitate a fall commencement, then sign me up. I would be honored to participate in re-instating this time honored rite of passage.