Pencil it in! Again!

According to an email from Dean Awn, the date for GS Class Day has been changed late in the game, due to the amount of set-up and security checks required for Obama’s Barnard Class Day visit. Instead of taking place on Monday, May 14th, the ceremony will occur on Sunday, May 13th. Spoiler alert (literally): it will still begin at 9 a.m. Check out DeAwn’s full email below—don’t worry, it contains epigrams in English, French, and Latin. Update, 5:45 pm: PrezBo has issued an email of his own, with an impressive word count of 84. Read it after the jump. 

Dear Graduates,

Since the announcement of President Obama’s decision to speak at Barnard College, it was apparent that the security requirements surrounding the President’s visit could potentially disrupt the Class Day of GS, if not SEAS as well.   We were informed last Friday that, if we were to continue with our original plan to have Class Day at 9am on Monday, May 14th, your families would have to arrive at least three hours before the event (5:30 am) to undergo a lengthy security check to attend a ceremony that is not associated with the President’s visit.  In fact, neither you nor your families would be able to remain on campus to hear President Obama speak.  We would also be confined to the Butler lawn with no ability to roam around the campus.  Frankly, I find that unacceptable.

There are no easy solutions.  President Bollinger and his Commencement team have tried very hard not to disrupt our Class Day schedule, but we have not found a way to achieve that goal.  We will be obliged, therefore, to move GS Class Day to Sunday morning, May 13th, at 9am on Low Plaza in front of Alma Mater, with Low Library as the backdrop.

I realize that, by this point, your families have made their plans and that, not only will this be an inconvenience, but that it also will force you and your families to incur additional expenses.  In addition, GS Class Day will overlap with the Baccalaureate Service, in which GS students are involved and scheduled to speak.  And finally, Sunday  May 13th is Mothers Day.  Despite these realities, I believe that if we want to have a truly celebratory event and not feel confined on our own campus, changing the day is the only option.

I would ask that you take me seriously when I say that this breakdown in planning has not been caused by President Bollinger and his Commencement team.  Nor is it the fault of President Obama’s security team, who are only doing their job.   This situation could have been avoided with more time to explore solutions – which we were not given.  There are times during my fifteen years as Dean when I have felt that the least I and my colleague leaders of  undergraduate colleges should strive to do is emulate a core principle of the Hippocratic oath, namely, “Do no harm.”  I apologize that, in this case, that has not happened.  The problem is not principally the change of date and venue, but the fact that the Class Day schedule is being changed this close to Commencement week.

I have taught at Columbia now for thirty-four years and found engaging  GS, Barnard, CC, and SEAS students to be an extraordinary experience.   The four colleges at Columbia , in their uniqueness and common commitment to excellence, embody in a very special way the ideals of this great University.  We should not allow the difficulties we experience to divide us.  But I share your frustration that we now find ourselves in this predicament.  I am reminded of an epigram of the first century Latin poet, Martial, in which he mentions the “digitus impudicus” which, I suspect, many of you will believe has been directed at us.  But rather than dwell on the negative, I hope we will focus on the last line of this epigram, “Non est  vivere, sed valere vita est,” “Life is not just being alive, but life is being vibrant, strong.”  So do not forget what your time at Columbia has meant to you and to the people whom you love.  If there are any seniors who have faced challenges and come out vibrant and powerful individuals, one only needs to look to the 2012 GS graduates.  This is a time for celebration, despite the circumstances.

Again, please convey to your families and friends our sincere apologies.

We will be sending to you today all of the necessary information about GS Class Day, which will be held on Sunday, May 13th, at 9am.

Peter J. Awn


Says PrezBo, in what must be something he drafted on a Blackberry:

Dear Students,

By now you have learned that your class day ceremony has been moved to Sunday, May 13, 2012 because of adjustments we needed to make to welcome President Obama to campus on the original date of your ceremony. I know this is a significant inconvenience and I want to thank you for understanding the unique challenges we faced and for being good citizens of the University. All the same, I look forward to being with you on the 13th and celebrating your exceptional achievement.


President Bollinger

A day in your busy life via Wikimedia Commons