It happens every summer

July 08, 2015

It Happens Every Summer: College Eight Graduates Set Out to Face the World & College Eight Frosh Arrive in Droves

The annual cycle at College Eight is a fixed one: Every year, in late September, there is a flurry of move-ins into College Eight; every year, in mid-June, academics come to an end, as soon-to-be graduates march to commencement and get ready to embark on their life voyages. For a couple of weeks, the campus is preternaturally quiet, with only crows, deer and a few administrations wandering about. And then, the visitors begin to pour in: tennis, soccer, rock camp kids; high school cheerleaders; summer school students; dowsers, mandolin players, rock stars, neurolinguistics university folk, junior techies, and many others. Over the summer, the Colleges are never quiet, and College Eight is no exception. Not only do we host a range of conference groups, incoming frosh and their parents gather at College Eight to learn about their next four years and then radiate out across the campus, to other Colleges and Departments. They get lost, ask questions, and look bewildered. We try to help them.   This summer is no different. Commencement Day 2015 started out with “June Gloom,” the foggy overcast for which the California Coast is famous (Mark Twain is said to have said “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” But, apparently, he didn’t say it). Across campus, commencements run like clockwork, scheduled for 9 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM. Some are bone chilling, others are scorchers. Hats are recommended; water is provided. By the time College Eight’s commencement began at 1 PM, the sun had emerged and the thousand or so families, friends and parents were warming up. There our guests sat, stood, conversed and wandered, waiting eagerly for the 350-odd degree candidates to come marching down the hill from College Eight. Back at the College Plaza, there was much rumbling and jostling, as students and faculty, led by the Provost, Chancellor and Commencement Speaker, got into line and slowly made their way to the festivities at Oakes College West Field.

This year, Commencement was honored by Karen Milian’s beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, student speeches by Sam Ayyagari and Amanda Botfeld, and the Provost’s entirely predictable remarks. Our keynote speaker, Sheila Davis, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, told the audience how she got into the environmental field and how our graduates could follow in her footsteps.  And, finally, the moment for which everyone was waiting: awarding of the degrees and Chancellor George Blumenthal’s pronouncement that those degrees were now official (because diplomas don’t arrive in the mail until many months later, students were given seed-impregnated congratulatory certificates, and encouraged to plant them).

For most graduating seniors, Commencement is a once-in-a-lifetime event: it validates the four or five years and tens of thousands of dollars that every student has spent, and it marks the passage from apprentice to full adulthood. For parents, families and friends, it is a sweet moment: not only have their children run the college gauntlet, the graduates now bear the weight of representing those parents, families and friends out in the world.  Graduation is a singular moment, and College Eight’s instructors and academic and residential life staffs wish their former wards the best of luck and fortune in the future.

Whereas Commencement is a well-planned and orderly affair, due mostly to the efforts of the College’s office and residential life staffs, move-in day is a study in chaos. Something like 7,000 students live at UCSC—with almost 800 at College Eight—and for a few days in September, the campus is awash with packed, slow moving and hopelessly lost vehicles. Cars and SUVs wait patiently for their turn and then roll up to their moment in the sun, near the dorms or apartments. Refrigerators, computers and TVs are extracted in great numbers, hauled up to second and third floors, and crammed into small, three-bed rooms whose floors are soon completely covered (How many refrigerators does it take to feed a dorm room? Based on personal observation, at least two, maybe three). After a few days of informational meetings and orientations, the dust begins to settle and the new students wander off, trying figure out how to get across campus. Classes begin and don’t stop for 30 weeks. From the perspective of September, it seems like forever, but those three quarters pass like nothing. Soon it is time for Commencement. It happens every summer.