Students gather for rebirth of campus tradition

Craig Gustafson

For only the second time in 30 years, a new student convocation was held for the 5,150 incoming freshmen.
The class of 2003 was welcomed inside Northrop Auditorium by University President Mark Yudof, the University marching band and 150 faculty members.
The faculty, dressed in traditional academic caps and gowns, kicked off the ceremony by marching onto the Northrop stage. Speeches by several University officials, including Yudof and McKinley Boston, vice president of Student Development and Athletics, followed the national anthem.
Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education, said Yudof is responsible for the rebirth of the convocation tradition.
“Yudof made convocation a priority when he came here,” he said. “It’s a welcome to the U; an introduction to the tradition and history of the University.”
The hope is to turn convocation into an annual event, creating class unity and celebrating the dawn of a new academic year.
Jane Canney, associate vice president for student development and athletics, said the lack of convocations in the past was not a result of apathy from University officials.
“Ten or 15 years ago there was a lack of interest in University tradition,” she said.
“Now the University has become more of a residential campus,” said Matt Clark, Minnesota Student Association vice president.
Last year 3,500 students — 70 percent of the freshman class — attended the event. Swan said the whole main floor of Northrop was filled as well as half of the balcony.
Officials expected about the same turnout this year.
Those in attendance gave mixed reviews, though many appreciated the free T-shirts being handed out.
“It was too old and too traditional,” said Ben Larson, a Carlson School of Management freshman.
Holly Olsen, a senior in education and an orientation leader, disagreed.
“It’s a big production,” she said. “I wish they would have done something like this when I was a freshman.”
The big production included a video screen that flashed images during the many speeches, University marching band performances and free dinner at Coffman Union.
The student union also had more than 100 student organizations handing out information. Union employees dished out yellow hard hats to prepare students for the upcoming renovation and cardboard fans to help them deal with the humidity.
“It’s a nice thing the U does,” said Bob Quincy, an employee at the H.D. Smith Bookstore on the West Bank. “I’ve been to other universities and it wasn’t very organized. For the size of the U, this is nice.”
“It’s a wonderful turnout,” Yudof said as he stood in front of the class of 2003. “This is my favorite day of the year.”