By Hope Kelly, Contributor
The organ plays at Fall Convocation. President Elizabeth Davis processes in with the platform party. The faculty and staff stand adorned in their formal regalia and garments. The Furman Singers prepare to sing. Finally, out in the audience sits absolutely no one.
While this was not the case Sept. 3, this is what convocation could have looked like if it was not a Cultural Life Program event (CLP). Most students would not willingly subject themselves to an hour of unrequired lecturing, a long speech on Furman and how important it is, without getting credit.
Last year is the perfect example. There was confusion among the student body as to whether or not convocation was a CLP credit, leading to a much lower attendance count. I can remember many of my friends turning around from going to convocation when they heard it might not be a CLP.
Convocation has no real appeal to Furman students and many do not even know what it is. I attended, and I am still unclear as to the event’s purpose.
In many ways, convocation is not focused enough on the student, which is what Furman should be all about. It is all pomp and circumstance. Some teachers and seniors receive awards, and President Davis, along with a few other important people, make speeches. How does this help students start off the year and why would they want to attend this when they could be sleeping or studying?
Before and after convocation, I discussed the event with Jody Frank, a woman sitting in front of me. Her daughter was a junior transfer student from Denison University, and she had another child at High Point. She informed me that she went to convocations at both institutions and, in comparison, Furman’s struck her as extremely odd.
She explained Furman lacked a lot of the tradition and concern for the students that the other schools had. She mentioned how the students were much more dressed up at the other convocations and that the general ceremony was more important and had more visible traditions.
Frank spoke of tassels given to students at High Point University as a reminder of something “to aim towards” and how the music company would prepare and play a composition that would not be played again until graduation.
At Denison, she said that each freshman was given a blanket to give to their parents or anyone that helped them get to this point in their lives, and at graduation, they were all given a blanket to keep for themselves to symbolize that “what you accomplish is your own.” She also highlighted that Denison had their convocation during freshman orientation so that all freshman attended.
From this conversation, I learned a lot about how Furman could make convocation more important and interesting to students. Having convocation before classes start seems more fitting than having it a week or two after. If it was held during freshman orientation, all students would start off their college experience with convocation, and it would allow for more symbolic gestures like that of High Point and Denison.
The idea of having something to tie together convocation with graduation is something Furman should seriously consider. It would bring more meaning to convocation and therefore, graduation as well.
The simple truth is that most Furman students are not going to attend convocation for anything other than the CLP credit and Furman should not be content with bribing their students to go. Instead, they should look for new ways to gather student interest and make convocation more important to their lives while retaining Furman’s commitment to tradition.