Threatening freedom

11/12/2020

A university or polytech graduation is one of a very few times most people have their achievements celebrated in a ceremony.

It’s not just the short walk across the stage, the hand shake, and, for a first degree, the placing of the trencher on the head of the new graduate.

It’s the total ceremonial package as well as the time spent with friends for what might be the last time in years as people who have spent three or more years together go to further study or work in different places.

Many thousands of students had their graduations cancelled by Covid-19 and  this week Otago University and Polytech students have had theirs cancelled for safety reasons.

Otago University cancelled Wednesday’s graduation ceremony after a specific threat:

. . . Police did not reveal the nature of the security threat or its precise timing, but said it related specifically to university graduation ceremonies.

University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said yesterday’s decision to postpone was made quickly after a strong recommendation from police to do so. . . .

Polytech students have had to accept similar disappointment:

Otago Polytechnic said it made the “devastating decision” following advice from police..

Without knowing anything more than there was a threat which police, and the institutions, have taken seriously, it is impossible to know if they have overreacted.

The decisions to cancel wouldn’t have been taken lightly and the search for the culprit will be taken very seriously too.

It must be not just to hold the person or people responsible to account but also to deter anyone else who, for whatever perverted reason, might think doing something similar would be a good idea.

The threat to harm people should the ceremonies have gone ahead is bad enough, the threat to the freedom to do what we want to do, where we want to do it makes it worse.


Graduation

26/05/2013

It’s graduation season which explains why Dunedin was buzzing on Friday.

At the university several graduands in academic regalia were having photos taken and town was very busy.

One of the professors who spoke at a function for graduands and their parents when our daughter was graduating reminded us that graduation is one of the few times in life when we get public recognition of our achievements and celebrate academic success.

It’s an exciting time for the graduands and their families although those graduating face a lot more uncertainty over job prospects than my generation did.

Apropos of which, I came across this at Story People by Brian Andreas:

Open large picture


Graduation a multi-cultural revelation

10/05/2010

The faculty head speaking at a gathering of Otago graduands and their families four years ago said that graduation would mean more to the parents than graduates.

I thought back to my own capping more than 20 years earlier and better understood my mother’s and father’s excitement, possibly in part because I’d achieved something the Depression had prevented them from doing.

I can’t remember who delivered the address at my graduation or what s/he said. The speaker at our daughter’s capping was Jonathon Lemalu. He told us that he’d been on many stages round the world but on none of them had he felt as proud as when he crossed the Dunedin Town Hall stage to be capped.

Fast forward to last Friday and another graduation, this time in Auckland, and even more parental pride.

The University of Otago is a very important part of Dunedin and because of that there’s usually good will between town and gown. I hadn’t expected the same feeling in Auckland, where the university is bigger but less important to the city. However, the excitement of the graduands and their families seemed to be shared by other onlookers as the graduands’ procession passed by.

The procession had a strong muliti-cultural look. That international flavour was reinforced during the graduation ceremony later in the day as we listened to the graduands’ names being called and watched them cross the stage.

 It was particularly noticeable with Optometry. Only 12 of the 37 graduating were men and all of the dozen looked as if they were of Asian descent. If appearance and names are a reliable guide, about 2/3 of the women in the class were also of Asian descent.

Appearance isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of nationality, of course. Many of these people will be New Zealanders by birth, or choice. New Zealand is a melting pot, and there are many positive opportunities for us in that.

I do however, have concerns about another observation – only four of the 37 new optometrists are working in the South Island.

Emeritus Professor Bellamy gave the graduation address and offered five points to guide the new graduates:

* Maintain honesty and integrity in what you do.

* Strive to ensure decisions are evidence based.

* Foster the ability to work in a team.

* Continue to read outside your discipline to broaden your understanding of the world.

* Keeping perfecting your ability to express your thoughts clearly in speech and writing.

After the ceremony we had a celebration dinner at Number 5 . First class service and delicious food in delightful surroundings provided a fitting end to a wonderful day.


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