Monday 9 November 2015

Laying on of hands

Well, I'm stuffed . . . full of canapes and dinky little eclairs. The first Thursday and Friday of November The Institute is given over to celebrating the fruits of its labour.  Classes are cancelled, so that there is room for our most recent crop of graduates to stride [lads] or teeter [lassies in heels] across the stage shake hands with our President and accept their parchment from her.  I bore witness last year from among the mill of doting parents rather than up on the stage with my colleagues kitted out in medieval costume. This year I was down among the masses again because I can't bring myself to shrug into a gown.  The Institute is sufficiently anxious to put on the razz with traditional ceremonial that they will hire an appropriate academic gown for any of the Academic Staff who ask for this service.  The students can also rent gowns. They get the use of it for the ceremony, including their 15 seconds of being centre stage, and for 90 minutes afterwards for photo-opportunity. For this they cough up €30 (or €27 if they pre-book on the web). Free-to-faculty vs €30-to students is the kind of inequity that winds me up.

As we were graduating in excess of 2000 students, that is a nice little earner for the company that has exclusive rights to on-campus hire. Nobody would have the patience to sit through 2000*15 seconds = 8 hours of watching other people's kids shake hands with the President, so the students go through in batches by School or Faculty about 250 each time. Everyone heaves a little sigh when a student is getting the degree in absentia and 15 seconds is saved.

Two weeks ago, one of my students in 3rd Yr Microbiology confessed to being a tad OCD about washing her hands and we agreed to differ on whether this was a good thing to do unless you're a surgeon, visiting your sick granny in hospital or between pitching manure and eating sandwiches.  In the middle of the conferring, this thought erupted unbidden: our Esteemed President was passing a snowball of 'germs' on to each succeeding graduate, so that the last chaps to go through the process would really need to wash their hands before attacking the canapes. Did I mention canapes? Free food? There were plenty! But I didn't get to eat many because I was glad-handing any students I recognised, meeting the parents and sisters and getting selfied. It was just as well because we had a big faculty meeting in the afternoon after our chaps got conferred.  If I'd eaten my fill of little sausages and spring-rolls I'd have surely fallen asleep during the deliberations.
Like last year, while waiting through the conferring ceremony and the speeches, I tallied up the provenance of this year's graduate. I've now got a sample of +500 people and their county of origin. I've massaged the data so that the total population of each county is accounted for: nobody expects students to come from Leitrim because nobody lives there . . . and it's inconveniently remote.  But we are 90km from Dublin along an artery of bus and rail transport routes: 2 million people live in Dublin [D on the left] - surely we could persuade more than 10 each year to come and get educated with us?  The other conspicuous-by-absence cases of Louth LH, Cavan CN and Limerick LK are a) smaller in population and b) have no direct access by public transport. I bet they don't get free canapes in Dublin Institute of Technology.

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