Is a graduation ceremony really needed?

Graduation is a ceremony of validation for many college students. It is also a waste of time and money, like so many aspects of American education.

UH has shelled out $135,000 for Matthew McConaughey to speak before its students. Not a UH alumnus, the only credibility he has is that he’s an actor, which doesn’t mean all that much.

“I don’t really understand it. He didn’t go here. He’s just an actor, not an academic,” said philosophy junior Collin Hegemeyer.

Movies are wonderful works of art, or can be at least, but McConaughey doesn’t seem like a landmark speaker so much as an attractive price tag.

If appearances are the deciding factor, then perhaps alumnus Kimberly Holland, Playboy Playmate of the Month for October 2004, would have been a better choice.

Rice University is having Gen. Colin Powell speak. The first African-American secretary of state is an enviable acquisition when compared to an actor who has strange feelings for Lincoln cars.

UH has gone about as if there are no graduates worth procuring for the commencement speech.

But Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts graduated from UH.

As a highly successful and respected senator, perhaps Warren would have more to impart to students than McConaughey.

UH is a growing school. Only recently deemed a Tier-One university, it is working hard toward becoming notable and desirable as a place of education.

This yearning for the limelight is the real reason behind McConaughey’s speech. Administrators at the University should focus inward more so than outward.

The UH student body is unique. Many students don’t have a typical, four-year college experience. Jobs, commuting and other real life issues lead them to work harder.

Everyone who goes to UH has a common desire to get a degree without spending too much money or collecting too much debt.

But the acquirement of a speaker and the cost of all the little details of the ceremony make for a pretty penny.

According to CNN, schools across the country are having famous commencement speakers, such as President Obama, Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Denzel Washington, Stephen Colbert and Katie Couric.

“If they would lower my tuition and not have a famous person then I’d be OK with that,” said psychology senior Sam Bobsaith.

UH has a chance to change the way education works at the highest level. They could get rid of graduation, along with all the extra costs.

That money could get back into tuition and other student funds, making life cheaper and the path to a degree, and to a job, easier.

This jumping-off point shouldn’t be wasted in the effort to copy the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and all the other Tier-One schools, both in and out of Texas.

But graduation is still happening and McConaughey is still speaking. It would be senseless to skip the ceremony, not to mention a waste of one’s own money.

People are hung up on tradition,. They want to have the college experience that their families had and that need for validation arises once more. The degree isn’t enough.

Students want to be recognized, and when one thinks about all the work that goes into a college degree, it is understandable.

“I’m an international student, and in my county we don’t have (a high school graduation),” said accounting senior Thu Nguyen. “I feel very interested and excited to go to that ceremony. And my parents are going to come so there’s no reason why I wouldn’t go.”

Tradition is nice, but sometimes habits must be shed to ease the burdens of life. Besides, the ceremonies are long and boring.

Opinion editor Henry Sturm is a print journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected].


  • Colin Powell, huh? The same Colin Powell who lied about the weapons of mass destruction? The same one who was in cahoots with Bush & Cheney to start a pointless war resulting in a massive loss of life?

    I’d rather have an actor.

  • You seem more upset with the fact the we have McConaughey than with the idea of commencements as a whole. Why have any ceremonies ever? Should people get rid of weddings too? Ceremonies are times of festivity and joy for families. Everyone has a different way that they reached that goal of obtaining the degree. They deserve their day to celebrate.

  • Your opinion was long and boring. How sophomoric. Dispense with graduation? Commencement is the culmination of years of hard work and deserves to be treated with the respect and dignity it has earned in the halls of tradition. Rice got it right. Unfortunately, McConaughey brought nothing to the dignity of the experience except cheap, New Age pablum for which he was handsomely rewarded. It’s degrading to the institution who squandered an opportunity to shine with its academic peers. Instead UH showed itself capable of little more than pandering to pop culture mentality and hollywood celebrity. And for this they charge us outrageous tuition?

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