Graduation

Well fuck it’s that time again. Daaaaaaa dadada daaaaaaa daaaaaa. God damn but I hate that tune. We have a local wind ensemble that plays at graduation. Someone who plays clarinet told me I don’t hate it as much as the wind ensemble does.

That’s fair.

I’m supposed to go to graduation every year. In 30 years, I think I’ve gone to graduation maybe, I dunno, 5 or 6 times, maybe. When I did, it was because someone talked me into it. Once it was out of respect for a dear colleague who had died of cancer. She adored her students, and they her, and graduation was something that was very important to her. So I thought, “Okay, to honor her memory, I’ll go from now on.” That lasted for a single ceremony.

Oh well, I tried.

Technically we’re supposed to go to 2 graduations a year since there’s one in December. I don’t know why we do that. I don’t personally know of any other places that do. There must be other ones somewhere. As far as I know, most places make everyone wait until spring.

Then for a while we were told we had to go to one a year. Currently how many we are required to show up for is unclear, but a few years back admin instituted another scheme to bully railroad guide faculty by requiring that we RSVP for graduation. If we don’t go, we’re supposed to take leave. I ignored that too. This term it finally caught up to me. I knew it would.

The day after graduation, I had an email from my dean:

Per [name of vice-president of academic affairs & chief academic officer]’s email concerning faculty commencement attendance if you were unable to participate please submit your absence in HRMS. If you need assistance let me know.

Normally I probably wouldn’t have read it, but I suspected something like this was coming. First let’s muscle past the lack of commas after “attendance,” “participate,” and “assistance” from a dean who’s fiefdom includes the English department. Did I mention she has a PhD? I’m not sure in what, but damn. Second, it’s worth noting that if I email said dean a question, I won’t hear shit from her for days. But miss graduation, oh she’s on it faster than you can say Robert’s your father’s brother.

I don’t know about you, but I get at least a whiff of a punitive, authoritarian tone here. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe I’m just looking for a fight. But I say it’s there. Now, I don’t mind taking leave to bail on the nightmarish drone of Pomp And Circumfuckingstance or the godforsaken benediction that shouldn’t even be part of a ceremony held by a state run agency or the droning nightmare of whatever self-important speaker is inflicted on a venue full of what are essentially hostages.

What I do mind is the veiled reminder that we’re being tracked. And holy shit that veil is thin, like plastic wrap thin and almost as opaque. I’m waiting for the day that all classrooms will be unlocked by a key card for both entry and exit so someone knows when you went into your classroom and when you left. I will, of course, prop my door open during class if that day ever comes. Yes, I do think admin is too stupid to figure that out at first.

If I decide not to take leave, my plan for next term is to show up, check in, then sneak out through an alternate exit under pretense of going to take a piss. If for some reason that doesn’t work, I’ll wait for the faculty line up to start, go all the way to the back, and leave once the processional starts. If I get caught, I’ll claim some kind of family emergency and take leave after all.

You might be thinking, “Well, it’s because of people like you that they feel the need to enact these kinds of measures.” I disagree. Admittedly I don’t help the problem, but when everyone from your dean up to the system chancellor acts like they can push you around, you take every little passive aggressive swipe at them that you can.

In 30 years I’ve seen 4 college presidents come and go and probably twice as many deans (two of which tried to actively get rid of me). I’m still here. I find that interesting. The fact is if you think I’m one of the main culprits here, you’re probably part of the problem. And now Pomp And God Damn Circumstance is stuck in my head. Fuck.

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