Friday, 9 May 2008

Graduation is what it means. Until you are admitted to your degree you are a graduand.

The deputy chancellor - in this case Alan Cameron - through his deputy (not named in the ceremony record) says several words following which those standing (approximately 150 individuals, half of whom became bachelors; there was only one PhD candidate - Paris Kenneth Mawby, Studies in Religion) became graduates.

The ceremony is a lot of fun, despite my racing pulse as I waited on the spot. I touched my mortar board and went up three steps, shook Mr Cameron's hand ("I hope you had fun"), touched the board again, and returned. I started in seat number 20 and sat down, relieved that the ordeal was over, in seat number 10.

This meant I was in the second row, a privileged position from where I could see everything on the stage wher ethe academics sat around the ornamental chair of the deputy chancellor.

Each graduate had a different style. Two - master of media practice graduates - doffed their mortars theatrically - to the great amusement of those assembled in the Great Hall, many of whom were friends and family.

Graduates sit on the right, the rest on the left.

One Chinese girl was so excited she fluffed it totally.

Instead of walking to stand directly in front of Mr Cameron - as was the rule - she started out off to his left.

He said something and she switched sides, stepping over until she was at his right. More words, and she went back to his left.

By this time, the hall was filled with chuckles. Mr Cameron gave up and handed over the testamur. Still out of it, the girl (let's call her Cuncun; pronounced 'Tsuntsun') walked over toward the cameraman instead of turning round and returning to the body of the hall.

More chuckles. Eventually she made it back to a seat, no doubt utterly relieved at being out of danger.

Like all of us, she held a plain plastic folder containing the testamur and a set of transcripts of academic record printed on special stationery.

After the ceremony, we exited and milled, taking snaps and beaming at one another like a bunch of kids who have just spent the night waiting for their concert tickets and have, finally, got them stashed in a warm pocket.

I met many people I'd shared a classroom with. I talked with Paris Mawby, whose thesis ('The Good Man's Croft') is about a dialogue between William James - brother to the novelist - and an Englishman, about the possibility of knowledge.

I went home straight away, recovering from a cold, and slept through the afternoon. At 6pm I went to Newtown for a party. A colleague graduated in the same ceremony.

Of note was Elizabeth Webby's 'occasional address'. She spoke about an 1832 issue of a Sydney newpaper (The Sydney Gazette and Advertiser) which contained items of speculative fiction. Science fiction, in other words. The date is signal.

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