It’s Convocation time, and to celebrate, Columbia began by playing some warm-up music, including “525,600 Minutes,” which is a song from the tragedy RENT and is also what we predicted to be the amount of time this thing would start late. Fortunately, we were mistaken, and at 2:35 PM, the OLs marched in with colorful flags from many countries to the tune of many majestic horns — it was just like the Olympics, except no sports or competition. (We apologize for our thumb blocking your view of the top left corner of the photograph. There’s nothing behind it except more of Lerner and the tops of some flags.)

Interim Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger welcomed the class of 2012 and congratulated them for being a part of our “family.” He talked a bit about alumni and how important they are (and then the 12s, and how diverse they are) before telling the the new students to stop by and have a cup of coffee with their adviser, all the time, just to chat. He then introduced Belinda Archibong, CC ’10, who is the coordinator of NSOP.

Archibong’s speech was quite poetic: there was a metaphor with an airplane and being nervous about new challenges, which was lovely. And then a second metaphor about riding the subway and feeling overwhelmed and then arriving at your destination, and that too was great. Her sign-off was a crowd pleaser, “I am a student of Columbia University, and so are you.” The 12s, wild with apparent epiphany, clapped enthusiastically.

Chester Lee, a SEAS/Business school double alum (’70 and ’74, respectively) described the campus as a “peaceful urban oasis.” He then mentioned his “Columbia connections”, which meant networking. He told the 12s not to end up as “run-of-the-mill investment bankers, doctors, lawyers, engineers”; the parents in the room looked nervous.

CC Dean Austin Quigley told the 12s that their places at Columbia were “some of the most sought after in the land.” He made a topical joke about Obama (who went here) and McCain (whose daughter did). Then he mentioned the 12s sleeping in a strange bed tonight, surrounded by hundreds of strangers. Again, the parents looked nervous.

Next up was SEAS Interim Dean Gerald Navratil, who assured the parents in the tents that his daughters went to Columbia too (one to CC, one to SEAS) and he knew what they were going through and said nothing about strange beds surrounded by strangers. He also discussed a new and exciting minor, entrepreneurship, and mentioned a number of famous SEAS entrepreneurs, a list that included a guy who designed the iPhone screen.

The next and final speaker was Nicholas Dirks, who was the only one to mention PrezBo’s conspicuous absence. The titillatingly vague explanation? He was “unable to be here today.”

A few OLs and RAs closed the ceremony by singing the fight song — it’s a little ditty called “Roar Lion Roar!” and it’s quite lovely.