By Farrad Williams
May 10 will mark the completion of another commencement ceremony at St. John’s University. A time for celebration and showing appreciation for family, friends, faculty and staff.
Since my time at St. John’s, I’ve had the honor of helping with two commencement ceremonies. While I enjoyed helping set up for these ceremonies, I did have an agenda. My agenda included seeing my SJU brothers walk across the stage, receive their diploma case and the recognition from peers, family members and others after four long years of hard work. Some of the SJU brothers I had the opportunity to see walk across the stage also attended high school with me, allowing me to celebrate with them on accomplishing another milestone.
During each ceremony I enjoyed the speeches given by students, faculty and administration. I enjoyed the music. I loved the positive energy of everyone in the room as graduates celebrated an accomplishment that is unattainable for some. I enjoyed seeing them wait to become alumni and think about taking the next step into “the real world.” After attending the 2019 commencement ceremony I realized something was missing. The thing that was missing was the presence of the Bennies. I immediately thought of how different commencement would be if Johnnies and Bennies graduated together.
Since SJU and CSB are two separate institutions, we have two different commencement ceremonies in which CSB seniors graduate the day before Johnnies. While I understand we are two separate institutions, I still find it ironic that we do not graduate together.
When my classmates and I arrived on both campuses back in 2016, we were all placed in orientation groups. Each group contained both Bennies and Johnnies, forcing us to form bonds and connections with people we would be with for the next four years. Over these four years, we have taken classes together, participated in activities and clubs together, studied abroad together and much more.
During the week of orientation we also learned the importance of tradition, living in community and coming together. On one of the most important days of our lives (graduation), our class and community become separated. A small contradiction of our mission to build community.
As we continue to spread the word of our effort to be a strong community, I encourage both institutions to think about the irony of building community while separating it during graduation. I would also encourage both institutions to look into finding other locations that would accommodate both of our campuses. Not only would having one ceremony keep our two communities together, but it may also make things a little easier for families. This year some families will have to attend two different commencement ceremonies because they have family members who attend both institutions. This means extra traveling which could be avoided if there was only one ceremony. I understand that space is limited on campus.
However, I think it is worth looking into other options. In the meantime, there may be different ways to compensate for the two ceremonies. One would be transportation. Unfortunately there is no transportation provided for graduates and families to travel back and forth to both campuses for photos, to reminisce and take one final tour across both campuses: or to visit both campuses.
The family members of some out-of-state and international students have never been to campus. Some graduates may also feel more connected to SJU campus than CSB campus and vice versa. This may be due to their major being on the opposite campus.
Being two institutions should not get in the way of celebrating the accomplishments of both CSB/SJU seniors. After all, we consider ourselves to be one community. Why not have one commencement ceremony?
This is the opinion of Farrad Williams, SJU senior