April 11, 2008

Editorial: Speech impediments

Last Friday’s announcement that the College acceptance rate dropped seven percent from 2007 should come as welcome news for students. But even as the University begins to catch up to its Ivy League counterparts in efforts to bring better-prepared students to campus, it still lags behind when it comes to sending them back out into the real world. With graduation just eight weeks away, it is apparent that, yet again, the U of C will not bring a high-profile commencement speaker to campus.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Across the country, many universities will bring in outside speakers to address their graduates. These guests might be celebrities, politicians, or captains of industry, but in every case, the goal is a simple one: to give graduating students a final send-off and impart a few words of wisdom in the process.

With a few exceptions—President Clinton in 1998 and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg two years ago—the University has made its College commencement ceremony an in-house affair, with remarks usually delivered by a dean or professor. While the U of C no doubt has a number of faculty or alumni who could deliver a decent speech, the last thing a graduating class wants to hear while preparing to ride off into the sunset is the nasally drone of a long-tenured professor reciting, one last time, the aims of a University of Chicago education.

A graduation is as much about looking forward as looking back. At the moment that students are finally leaving the academic bubble for the real world, it makes sense to bring in a keynote speaker from outside our community.

A U of C education can be painful at times, but when it’s all said and done, it should be a rewarding experience. There’s no reason this can’t be reflected in our commencement ceremonies. It may not show up in the US News and World Report rankings, but graduation is one area where the University still gets a failing grade.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.