Published 4/2013

USA Today College Blog

Commence: Hand Shake or Harlem Shake?

The big day is almost here. The day you leave meal plans, media labs, nuclear reactors (at least for the undergraduates at Reed College in Oregon), free lectures, concerts, sporting events, and of course mind blowing parties. Life as you’ve known it for four, five, and sometimes even six years as an undergraduate is about to drastically change, but not without one last hurrah of sitting for hours in a stuffy polyester graduation cap and gown—the wear of civility and shame a dichotomic yet iconic gown between the college campus and the campus of life.  With ceremonies, lunch ins, and other post ceremonial activities awaiting the virgin graduates the thought of looking presentable under those robes of sweaty plastic is often desirable, but is not for all.  With the element of surprise heightened due to identical over wear, is there a “Harlem Shake” brewing amongst campus life?

We have all heard stories of the naked student under their graduation gown, or the classic 80’s spandex onesie, the tuxedo, leather chaps, barefoot, etc, you get the picture.  Options are endless, and what is a more creative environment than a college campus to find obscure and non-traditional dress worn under those oversized and far from breathable curtains and awkward caps? With all the themed parties that you’ve been attending throughout your college years, it is time to choose your best dress!  Remember the ABC parties, jungle themed, golf pros and tennis blah blah blah?  Yes, take commencement seriously, show grandma and grandpa that you actually do love the letter sweater they bought you from the bookstore upon accepting admission as a freshman, but have a little fun too.  It will be May, and hot and all you will be thinking about is summer, this is your last chance to be college wild. Get this, those ceremonial robes are baggy enough to wear everything from a medieval knights armor, blow-up sumo costumes, banana suits, sexy lingerie, jock straps, bathing suits, and birthday suits. They are not flattering, comfortable, or easy to move in, the caps fit like trying to balance a lunch tray on your head, and when it comes to tripping on the stage stairs, the flowing fabric lends itself quite easily to that embarrassing maneuver. The more variety the better, there will already be too many paisley sundresses and pink ties.

With the current buzz of “Harlem Shaking” plastering all the “Facebooks” and “YouTubes” of the Internet, the drive to outdo the last “hit” video is still building.   Is commencement, laden with its element of surprise, anticipating anxiety, nerves of joy, and group invincibility the perfect ingredients to pull off a “Harlem Shake?” If so, when would be the best time to darn those costumes, which student body will throw robes this year rather than caps, who is techny enough to hack the sound system, and who is daring enough to start the dance, diploma in hand while facing the proud parents, grandparents, and professors shocked by the blast-beat that interrupted the ceremonial procession of names?

It is quite the heist.  Wiring the sound system, student body planning, timing, organizing, costuming, etc.  So many factors are involved in pulling this Oceans[esq] maneuver off.  And which professional and/or honorary degree recipient will play along with the festivities?  Will it be Oprah Winfrey and Harvard, Barack Obama and Ohio State, Bill Cosby and the University of Baltimore, or sac religiously (depending on which Buddhist you’re talking to), His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Tulane University?  If I’m not mistaking, these figures are also recognizable personalities that would fit swimmingly in any “Harlem Shake” procession.   Surely a level of disrespect looms in the air, and interruption of any kind at such a celebratory event is traditionally unwelcome, but with tasteful timing and proper attention given to the moment, a commencement shakedown might go down in history as the greatest commencement heist of all time, no editing needed.


The Hill News: 2012

Never before have I felt the ease of life roll over the Adirondack earth as smoothly as it has for the past four years. St. Lawrence is like no place on earth, nothing compares, nothing. When I graduate, I’ll become a part of an alumni network that at any given moment will drop whatever they’re doing to grab a beer and talk about the good ol’ days at SLU. Times change, buildings are built, rugby teams famish, and Frisbee team flourish. Who knows what will happen over the next four, eight, or even sixteen years to this campus? The thing that makes St. Lawrence so beautiful is its sacred spaces. We are nestled amongst some of the kindest folk in New York State. The North Country represents more of what New York State is actually like than any other place in the state. Of course the big cities like New York, Buffalo, and Syracuse represent an industrial society with constant economic development, but the North Country represents people who are legitimately happy. People who live here want to be here. It is a simple life, one that lacks economic stability but a life is surrounded by people who are in your likeness. Neighbors share more than just a cup of sugar, they exchange food, work, transportation, art, farm equipment, education services; the list is endless because people in the North Country live together, much farther apart than NYC block housing, yet are able to share, exchange ideas, and help one another as if they are one family living in the same house. It’s not odd that our campus kind of feels the same way. The energy of the North Country seeps into this campus like water does a in a garden. Students create relationships at SLU as if we were locals in the community. We work together, sleep together, drink together, play together, camp together, we literally do everything together…we live together. Back in the early days of SLU, every student male and female lived, slept, ate, and took classes together in the same building—that building was Richardson. It is a stretch to say but I believe the community we have on this campus today is because of how it all began back on April 3rd in 1856!

So, as I leave the tight community of students, I’ll enter the even tighter community of alumni. As wild as it is to hear myself say this, “I’m psyched to graduate!” Finally I’ll be on my own, no Dana meals, no sweet theme house of twenty-five people to hang out with 24’7, no free speakers, artist lectures, library services, concerts, java, outing club trips, everything is going to change. I think what SLU alumni do best is they take their lives at SLU to wherever they go beyond graduation. We honestly know how to do life well. To be cliché, we work hard and we play hard. To be perfectly honest the people I see on the campus partying the hardest are the same people I see in the library almost every time I’m there. In terms of categories of life that I’d like to fit into beyond college, the work hard play hard category is the most enticing. Appropriately, this is most of St. Lawrence too. When I return for alumni events I know we’ll all end up in the same places; the Hoot because it’s the only place to go as alumni but also because we all want to come back to the bar where we celebrated all our hard work.

St. Lawrence is surprising. One minute you’re laughing the night away until four a.m. with friends and the next you’re watching those same people sing with the Laurentians, dance in a dance show, play in the ensembles, present a poster on four years of research, score the winning goal, present their art work in the gallery, student teach in the Canton schools, or get their 46’er. The list is endless, and I can’t wait to come back for my reunions to see where you all are today. We get each other, and that is where are community comes from. As your boot and paddler I can honestly say that unfortunately this won’t be my last boot and fortunately it will definitely not be my last paddle. Fare thee well now. Oh, by the way there is lunar eclipse on June 4th.