I actually thought about going to graduation for my M.A. in Applied Learning & Instruction from University of Central Florida, because some of my classmates and faculty were encouraging me to go. However, I think the ceremonies are predatory and stupid, and none of my family were interested in going.
Commencement is an opportunity for the enrichment of the private companies UCF provides monopolistic, “sweetheart” deals to. UCF graduates are required to rent their gowns from Herff Jones at inflated prices that are much higher than other public Florida universities. My gown would cost $120 to rent, and Herff Jones assures me my credit card would be billed $800 if I do not return the gown by 5:00 p.m. the day of commencement, even though the ceremony does not start until 2:30 p.m.
At UCF commencements, guests are prohibited from getting closer to the stage or even standing up to take photos. From page 19 of the spring 2016 Commencement guide:
Photography and Recording Equipment
The University of Central Florida has arranged for GradImages to take professional pictures of all graduates as they cross the stage during the ceremony. After the ceremony, photographers will be available outside the CFE Arena and in front of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center for individual and family photos. Graduates will be contacted at a later date with purchasing information, but are under no obligation to purchase photos. See page 27 for more information.
While cameras and video recording equipment are permitted, guests are required to photograph or videotape from their seats only and must not obstruct the view of others.
GradImages will charge you about $100 for 6 photos that may be dark or blurry, according to their atrocious Yelp reviews. Of course, you won’t be able to tell before buying the photos, because you only get to see blurry, heavily watermarked preview images.
It is my opinion that this level of featherbedding reflects poorly, especially upon a non-profit, State institution chartered for the public’s benefit. Providing a monopolistic arrangement to Herff Jones and GradImages would be like prohibiting students from ordering textbooks from anywhere but the overpriced campus bookstore. It is at odds with the “Integrity” and “Excellence” components of the creed of the university.
When you attend commencement, you are surrounded by people who may or may not actually be graduating. Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates are given a diploma cover; their actual diploma is not mailed until 6–10 weeks later. These purported graduates may even be “walking” early at some institutions, with their graduation remaining dependent on them completing their program of study in the summer semester. Attendance of graduation at UCF and other institutions provides no indication of an earned degree.
I am continuing at UCF in the Education Ph.D. program and have promised to attend that graduation, which will be in 2019 or later if my dissertation takes longer. Fortunately, according to the commencement guide, doctoral graduates actually receive their degree on-stage, indicating they have actually graduated.
I will be receiving my Master’s degree by mail in 6–10 weeks, just like my cohorts who attended commencement.