Commencement Move Is Prudent
TheCollege made the only practical decision available when it decided to move Commencement for the Class of 1995 from Baker Lawn to Memorial Field. While holding the ceremony in the football stadium is certainly less than ideal, the College really has no alternative.
Acting College President James Wright said in an interview with The Dartmouth that he made his decision in consultation with a number of people, including College President James Freedman. Wright said he acted only with the best interests of students and their families at heart.
After considering the alternatives, it is hard to find fault with his decision.
Having U.S. President Bill Clinton speak at any college's commencement is a big production and requires certain sacrifices by the school. First, there is the obvious issue of security for Clinton. If the ceremony was held at Baker Lawn, the Secret Service would have to seal off all the buildings and windows on the Green and install a large, unsightly fence.
Then there is the issue of the additional visitors. The College is expecting more than 15,000 people for this year's Commencement, compared with the usual 10,000 attendees at a normal ceremony.
Baker Lawn is simply too small to hold the massive crowd expected for Commencement. Every student should be allowed to invite at least eight family members to attend the ceremonies. In addition, faculty members and administrators should be allowed to bring guests to the event. Finally, any Dartmouth undergraduate who wants to attend Commencement should not be denied the opportunity to hear Clinton speak.
Obviously, more people will want to attend this year's ceremonies because Clinton is speaking. If Commencement is held on Baker Lawn, then many of the people who will want to attend will be unable.
The opportunity to have a sitting U.S. President speak at Dartmouth's Commencement is a once-in-a-generation occurrence. People at the College still talk about the speech given by then-U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.
Memorial Field should be a one-time location for Commencement. Clinton's speech creates an unusual situation for this year's ceremonies. But the College should move Commencement back to Baker Lawn next year. Baker Lawn is at the academic heart of the campus and has been the home of Commencement for more than thirty years.
If Freedman thinks Baker Lawn will be too small for next year's Commencement, then he should start working in September with the Class of 1996 officers to investigate a move to the Green instead of Memorial Field.
But for this year, the Class of 1995 has one of two options. If they want Clinton to speak, then the event must be held in Memorial Field. Or the Class of 1995 can snub the President of the United States, try to find a different speaker and hold Commencement on Baker Lawn.
The seniors should stop complaining and begin to appreciate the exciting and special occasion their Commencement will be.