Remix tradition: Change needed for Convocation and Commencement

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September 8, 2011

10:19 PM

Traditions, both new and old, play a large part in forming our unique identity as students at the College of William and Mary. Our shared collective experiences, from completing the triathlon to jamming out at Charter Day and celebrating Blowout — excuse me, Last Day of Classes — help shape our time at the College in a way that goes beyond admissions pamphlets and test scores.

Bearing that in mind, and on the heels of attending my third Opening Convocation, allow me to humbly submit a request for a remix.

Everybody loves a good remix.Sometimes the remix is so good, it puts the original to shame, like R. Kelly’s 2003 remix of “Ignition” which so thoroughly overshadowed the original that it left me scrambling on Google to find whether it even exists. (It does.)

A quality remix takes the elements of the classic everybody knows and loves and subtly spices it up, leaving the core intact. A bad remix typically tries to do too much to the original, leaving the listener wondering why a classic was ever touched in the first place.

Convocation is one of those classics. I think the vast majority of the ceremony should remain the same. It is a beautiful ceremony that regularly gets an impressive turnout of upperclassmen, rain or shine. There is just one little piece that needs tinkering.

During Convocation the new freshmen, transfer students and graduate students walk from the Wren Courtyard, or the Sunken Garden side of the Sir Christopher Wren building, to the Colonial Williamsburg side to be cheered for by their fellow members of the Tribe.

During Commencement, graduating students reverse that walk, walking from the Colonial Williamsburg side of Wren, through the Wren Building, into campus.

While we rightfully treat these traditions themselves as sacred, there is nothing sacred about their respective processes. Convocation, as we know it now, is less than 20 years old. Former College President Timothy Sullivan only resurrected the ceremony for our tercentennial in 1993 after a 20-plus year hiatus. Likewise, only recently was Commencement moved from the Wren courtyard to William and Mary Hall, and the preceding Senior Walk changed in 1978. Now it’s time for both Convocation and the Commencement Senior Walk to be remixed.

As new students come from all over the world to become members of our community, they should walk symbolically from the Colonial Williamsburg side of Wren (the outside world) to the Sunken Garden side. As graduating seniors prepare to leave the friendly confines of Williamsburg to make an impact on the world at large, they should proceed from the College (the Sunken Garden side of Wren) to the world. These changes may be subtle, yet they do exactly what a good remix intends: Keep the core spirit of a classic intact and enrich our traditions by deepening their symbolism.

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