Graduation grips our pockets

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Photo provided by Lancaster University Press Office

Hark, fellow student, for it’s that time of year again! That’s right, not only have LUSU decided to throw us what they are describing as ‘a Ball’, but our benevolent overlords in University House have also decreed us worthy to attend a lavish hat-throwing circle-jerk/Harry Potter cosplay convention in celebration of our imminent replacement by a bunch of poor suckers who’ll be handing over three times as much cash as we do! And it’s awfully important that you attend both of them. University, lest you forget, has been scientifically proven to be ‘the time of your life’. And as these two monumental events are nothing if not the highlights of the academic year, it becomes logically impossible to deny this graduation bonanza will be anything less than the TIME OF THE TIME OF YOUR FREAKING LIFE. You simply can’t afford to miss them!

Hopefully my tone is suggesting is that I have reservations. The two events seem to have such a strangely holy air about them that makes the prospect of non-attendance utterly unthinkable. Want to silence a room in a matter of seconds? Tell them that you’re not going to either of them. “Oh, what, but, but, why?” confused friends have stuttered. Well, the first problem’s an obvious one; whilst it may well be the case that ‘you can’t afford to miss!’ them, chances are you won’t actually be able to afford to attend the things either. At Graduation we’re being charged £40 to wear a bed sheet for a couple of hours, robes that must be worn in order to attend the ceremony. Sure, it’s a relatively small amount of money, but coming as it does at the end of what has been the absolute financial nadir of our lives so far makes it seem more than a little insulting. It’s a cost that’s compounded further by the deliriously large selection of extras that you can purchase as a memento of your ‘special day’. Photographs start at £35, and ‘professionally produced’ films are a completely justifiable £37 – your own video cameras, incidentally, are banned. Most bizarrely of all, you can purchase postal stamps emblazoned with your gurning, graduating face for a measly £20; perfect for sending off those dole forms you’ll be needing very soon! At a whopping £45 Grad Ball is similarly terrible value for money, and with the additional food, beer and suit charges it quickly gets deliriously expensive. Is there a single good reason for wearing fancy clothes to Grad Ball anyway? Please consider the constituent parts of Grad Ball – an indie rock gig and some sort of krautdub-doomfolk-dancejazz DJ set (I’ll be honest, I haven’t got a clue what a ‘Jaguar Skill’ is). You wouldn’t wear a suit to either of those events, because that would just be a monumentally stupid idea. But everyone will do it anyway.

OK, so the suit thing might only feel compulsory because of social pressure, but the graduation robes are compulsory. And when you press the University Ceremonies department on the additional robe charge, they reply with the exact same argument that the Daily Mail uses to justify everything from conker fights to lynchings – it’s ‘tradition’, don’t you know! But no, this so-called ‘tradition’ is a mere invention (as is the case with most ‘traditions’), fabricated in the sixties to mimic those of longer standing institutions in what is little more than an attempt to impress your long-suffering parents. The University want to put on a good, pompous show for you so you’ll continue to supply them with money as an alumni, and they want to impress your family so they’ll have a better chance of squeezing nine grand a year out of any younger siblings you may have.

The worst part is that neither of them are worth it. If graduation was actually Harry Potter convention I’d be more inclined to part with the cash. But alas, that’s not to be; we will gorge ourselves on Butterbeer and Chocolate Frogs. Nope, instead we’ll be subjected to unbearable heat, inane speeches and made to clap so much that it’ll make the crowds in Triumph of the Will look unenthusiastic. And as for Grad Ball, it’s just a regular night out, but this one’s in an unsuitable venue, and the ‘indie anthems’ are being played live instead of by a clueless DJ. What have Maximo Park and the Hoosiers got to do with your time at University, anyway? How are two bands that soundtracked the end of your GCSE’s even remotely related to commemorating a period of your life that took place between 2009 and 2012? In the end, you’re paying a lot of money for a profoundly underwhelming experience that you won’t look back on favourably in three years time. Sounds a lot like University in general, actually…

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