Sunday, November 08, 2009

2009 Faculty of Education Graduation in Barony Hall

Entry for 7 November 2009:

I missed the previous two years’ graduations, because I was either out of town or ill. This year, however, I was able to make it, and so, a bit before 10 this morning I collected my academic regalia, caught the train to High Street Station, and walked up the road to Barony Hall.

Barony Hall is another one of those converted churches, a beautiful late Victorian gothic revival structure made of the luminous red sandstone that is so characteristic of Glasgow. The University of Strathclyde uses it for ceremonial events, such as graduations.

Many people were unhappy when it was decided last year to stop holding Education Faculty graduations in the Francis Tombs Hall on the Jordanhill Campus. It was traditional, familiar, and if the weather was nice, people could spill out onto the well-tended grounds of the campus. (It was also right next to my office, which I could therefore use to put on my cap, gown and hood.) All these things are true, but graduation in Barony felt much grander. As we processed into the old cathedral-style church, like some large and highly dressed choir, the place was packed with people. We took our places in what used to the sanctuary of the church, and looked out at the people assembled. The sun was shining through the stained glass windows at the back (east end) of the hall: Graduates filled the transept to our right and the front rows; behind them, their families and friends were packed in – including four of our part time tutors. They were there to support the students they’d nurtured through the intensity of the last years’ Fulltime and Monday Part-time counselling diploma courses. It was a magnificent scene, easily beating the sports arena/football field/commercial hall settings favoured by American universities and high schools, or even the auditorium we’d been having graduations in at Jordanhill.

Scottish graduations apparently value efficiency along with pomp and ritual: There was a grand marshal wielding the Official Mace, but there was no invocation or closing benediction. The platform party was not introduced and the parents, spouses, siblings, spouses, children and grandchildren of the graduates were not thanked. There was no long, often boring speech from a visiting dignitary with little or no connection to the University. Instead, there was a very brief greeting from the Deputy Principal of the university, Ann Hughes, and then the Dean began reading the names of the graduates as they trooped across the front of the platform. First, they knelt or bowed before the Deputy Principal, who capped them: That is, she placed her cap on their head for a moment, symbolically transferring her wisdom and authority to them. Then they were hooded and congratulated. All told, there were about 125 graduates at the ceremony. Once this was finished, the Deputy Principal gave a short speech congratulating the graduates and enumerating the recent accomplishments of the Faculty of Education. When she mentioned the Counselling Unit’s getting the Charlotte and Karl Buehler Award from APA’s Division of Humanistic Psychology, the counselling unit graduates, seated to our left in the transept, spontaneously burst into applause. Then the Deputy Principal finished her talk, invited everyone to the reception across the street in the Lord Hope Building, and that was it. The bagpiper started playing and led us out of the Hall. Forty-five minutes.

At the reception, I went around looking for students to congratulate, taking pictures of them and having pictures taken with them. They were all beaming. They been through a lot, personally, professionally, emotionally, as well as academically, and felt deservedly proud. I feel proud of them also.

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