At the end of March, the Classes of 2018 voted to decide between joint seating and processions for commencement or separate seating and processions by college. The debate prompted discussion about gender differences and inclusivity within the coordinate system. To shed greater light on the discussion the Herald asked three campus leaders and active participants in the conversation to express their views in print.
As the date of May 13th becomes ever closer, the yearly question of seating arises within the minds of members of the senior classes. Although the arrangement of seating may seem like a mere matter of logistics, the reality is that it holds symbolic weight. Furthermore, it is representative of the attitudes and views of the colleges and the coordinate system at large. When posed with the question of seating at graduation (Should seating be joint or divided by college?) my instinctual answer is that it should be joint. In thinking this I possess little hesitation. My experience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has not just been shaped by the men of Hobart College. Many of the peers who have pushed me, challenged, and encourage me to develop as an individual and student are members of William Smith College. The most essential, and important aspects of my educational journey cannot be accredited to solely Hobart College. The women of William Smith have aided me just as much, if not more than the men of Hobart College. Thus, it is my innate desire to be surrounded with all of my peers at graduation; united not divided.
However, it is important to recognize (as with any argument) critiques of my position that may arise and valid points coming from an oppositional view. In uniting the colleges of Hobart and William Smith it is important to recognize not just their unity, but also recognize their independence from one another. What I mean by this is that in joining the two there is the potential of allowing one college to possibly overshadow the other. Specifically, the danger of the title of Hobart College overshadowing William Smith College exists. Too often our school is reduced to solely being “Hobart,” a misconception that has real implications. The reduction of William Smith into Hobart not only threatens their independence as a college but subordinates the Women’s College to the Men’s. A clear and unfair dynamic rooted in patriarchal system that has continued to exist for too long. Though it might seem like an issue of semantics it can become much more. The language we use can deeply influence the thoughts we have. Confusion within the job market can lead the degree of one college to be viewed as being of more value than the other. This is something we should not tolerate. Should the body of William Smith College choose to have separate seating I would certainly defer my judgment to them.
Thus, as I encourage joint seating for commencement I want to also encourage my peers to be careful of the way we talk and think about the colleges. As we get ready to depart from Geneva we still need to maintain our critical thought in the relations of our daily lives and continue to question the implications of what we as a collective choose to advocate for. Wishing everyone good (and thoughtful) times as we come closer to our culminating moment! Cheers!