Exit, Stage Right…..

The University of Florida drew some unwanted attention recently when one of its faculty marshals was observed rushing, even pushing, several graduates off the stage after they had received their diplomas at commencement.  The University’s president later apologized and placed the faculty member on administrative leave.

To be sure, it is a challenge to usher a large number of students across a stage, one-by-one, in a timely fashion.  An informal survey of schools across the country reveals a variety of strategies for addressing this task.  Here’s a sampling of the more effective ones:

—  At the University of Miami, graduates wear a swim suit to the ceremony rather than a cap and gown, and exit the stage via a water slide.  According to Commencement Coordinator Todd Flemm, “the kids love it.  They can’t wait to run across the stage and dive, usually head first, onto the slide.  We’ve reduced the length of graduation by nearly 30% since introducing this procedure in 2012.”

— In contrast, a no-nonsense approach is employed at the University of Georgia, where professional bouncers from local biker bars monitor stage traffic.  If a graduate dawdles after being asked to speed up, the offender is immobilized with a taser and tossed into a mosh pit in front of the stage filled with adjunct faculty members.  “The number of injuries we’ve had is surprisingly few,” reports Provost Gretchen Slurv.  “The biggest problem is that the adjuncts sometimes steal the wallets of the graduates and use their health insurance cards.  We’re going to have to figure out a way to deal with that.”

— After consulting with world-renowned animal-behavior expert Temple Grandin, officials at Colorado State University designed a double rail restrainer conveyor system for moving students across the stage, modeled after the device used in many large beef plants for herding and stunning cattle (see illustration above).  According to CSU’s Police Chief, Garrett ‘Big Chew’ Bundy, “the conveyor system keeps students calm as it quickly transports them.  Occasionally a student may make a mooing sound, but it’s no big deal.  Actually, it’s kind of funny when that happens.”

— Finally, there’s Middlebury College in Vermont, which is attempting to re-frame the way schools think about commencement-stage logistics.  At Middlebury, graduates whose parents have paid full, undiscounted tuition for all four years are invited to remain on the stage after receiving their diploma and lounge in a salon-like space furnished with plush leather armchairs and a wine bar staffed by tuxedoed underclassmen who are on financial aid.  Cigars are available upon request.  “These are the folks who keep us in business,” notes College President Laurie Patton.  “It’s the least we can do.”

Absolutely.  As they say at Pepperidge Farm, “the one who butters your bread deserves the best toast.”