My daughter Phillipa graduated from Southampton Solent University recently. The format of the ceremony had changed a little from when my son graduated, about 4 years earlier. There were fewer seats for relatives, which was a shame, but the Chancellor, Admiral The Right Honourable Lord West of Spithead, made a point of shaking hands and exchanging some words with each and every student as they came on stage.
There’s a certain and necessary pomp that goes with this sort of academic celebration. The professors and dignitaries on stage are dressed in gowns and caps, and sort of remind me of the Academics of the Unseen University on Discworld. However, there was none of the silliness associated with those characters! I had a seat in the front few rows so got a few shots of students, including my daughter, which was nice. There were lots of people with little compact cameras and flashes going off, but I didn’t use flash, just high ISO. I was somewhat shocked – or perhaps astounded – by the attire chosen by a handful of students to wear under their gown. Most wore smart ‘best’ outfits, but a couple chose to put on tatty t-shirt and crumpled jeans or a shirt and trousers that looked as if they had slept in it. Did they not value their achievement in getting their degree? If they thought it was a joke, why bother to go to the graduation at all? I am puzzled by that attitude. Some of the girls wore outfits better suited to a disco – skirts that barely came to their crotch and teeteringly high heels more suited to the catwalk. I imagine Lord West enjoyed each and every handshake. I decided to spare any blushes and not take any shots of those young ladies. Or perhaps not.
And an even shorter one – deliberately moved the camera to obscure identity.
I’m glad my daughter chose to wear something a little less daring.
Interestingly, some of the female graduands came dressed for pantomime. There was one with red-dyed hair and a bright green dress who looked like she was going straight on stage as Snow White. Another chap had an abudance of dreadlocks and looked like Captain Jack Sparrow on his day off. I am all for individuality, but some seemed to have missed the bit about ‘appropriateness’. Or may be I’m just not as young as I was. May be its all about celebrity and the media, given that Dannii Minogue has been awarded a Doctorate of Media for “outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry”. I don’t doubt her long career and good looks, but really – Home and Away, The Vagina Monologues and Australia’s Got Talent???
After the ceremony we met up with my son, parents and the rest of the family but it was too dark outside at 4.15 p.m. to get any good shots. I longed to do one of those ‘hats in the air’ shots, but it just wasn’t going to happen!
It was a good day, the weather was kind and the upbeat celebration is a fitting culmination of 3 years of hard work, not to mention expense. Lets hope that against the odds there are jobs out there, allowing the students to fulfil their dreams. Flipping burgers in Macdonalds isn’t what higher education should be about.