Open Letter from the Senior President

Tradition is certainly an intrinsic part of the Colgate experience. Throughout the school’s history, graduation has incorporated a number of different traditions. Years ago the Commencement Ceremony took place in the Memorial Chapel; when the Chapel became too small the ceremony was moved to the Academic Quad. For the past few years, Commencement has taken place next to Taylor Lake. Three consecutive years of miserable weather during the Commencement Ceremonies have suggested that perhaps this tradition be reconsidered once again.

The decision to change the commencement location has not been taken lightly. President Chopp — in conversation with the President’s senior staff, and considering a myriad of complaints from parents and students alike — decided that it would be best, for all parties involved, that the ceremony be moved inside.

Change can be really frustrating, but President Chopp would not have made this decision if she did not think that it was in the best interest of the students and our families. Some of Colgate’s most important traditions will remain steadfast during Commencement Weekend. including:

• The traditional Torch Light Ceremony will still occur Saturday night, starting at the Academic Quad and proceeding down the hill to surround Taylor Lake.

• Following the Commencement Ceremony, Colgate faculty, staff, graduates and families will be invited to an ice cream social and reception, under a tent next to Taylor Lake to end our academic careers here at Colgate in the same way they began.

• Baccalaureate, a heralded service for people of all faiths, will take place Saturday afternoon.

• Attendance at past graduation ceremonies has hovered around 5,000 people;?holding the ceremony in the Sanford Fieldhouse will not change the number of tickets available per student – this number will at least stay the same, and could possibly increase.

• Multiple satellite locations will be available across the campus from which additional family and friends can watch the ceremony live.

This year’s Commencement Weekend will also bring some great changes and added traditions to Colgate:

• The development of an online ticket exchange so that students who need additional tickets for their family can take advantage of extra tickets that other members of the class may have.

• Moving the awards ceremony from the end of the Academic Year to the Saturday of Commencement Weekend so that families can attend as students are awarded some of Colgate’s most prestigious honors.

• A luncheon on the Academic Quad, following the Award Ceremony and prior to Baccalaureate, honoring students and their families.

• A photo slideshow, commemorating our four years at Colgate, playing on large screens in the Fieldhouse as people enter the commencement ceremony.

Last spring, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to almost 5,000 members of the Colgate community in one of the University’s most historic events. Anybody who was in Sanford Fieldhouse that afternoon knows that the lecture was successful acoustically and aesthetically, with everybody being able to hear and see the Dalai Lama because of the audiovisual technology employed. It is our intention to use a very similar setup for Commencement to ensure the same degree of success.

Colgate is home to many different traditions; perhaps the best is a tradition of selflessness. As we channel our frustrations about changes in the commencement weekend, I would encourage everyone to consider how this decision affects not only our class, but the thousands of people who will attend the graduation ceremony. If the weather presents the same challenges this year as it has in the past, is it right to ask our family and friends to sit in the cold, rain and wind for almost three hours — or, perhaps, does it make more sense to invite our family and friends to a ceremony that will be remembered for its worldly speakers and momentous occasion, instead of the weather?

I have very proudly served the Class of 2009 as President for the last four years – and in this time, it has been my intention to advocate in the best interest of our class. This situation is no different, if I didn’t whole-heartedly believe that this was the best decision for Colgate, then I would not support it. But I do, and thus I am writing to you today encouraging you to do the same.