Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shame on you, Saint Anselm College

My oldest child will be a college graduate soon.

Notice anything a little off about the above statement, aside from your very astute observation that I couldn't possibly be old enough to have fathered a college graduate?

Let me help you out. Most, if not all, colleges and universities hold their commencements prior to June. Saint Anselm College, the school my daughter has attended for the last four years, held their commencement exercises on May 21.

Why has my daughter not graduated yet? She fell three credits shy of the 120 required for graduation. That's one class, to you and me. One class over the course of four years.

Stefanie has already enrolled in a night class at St. A's to complete that requirement and will be an official college graduate in less than five weeks.

So, why the title of this post, you ask?

My daughter Stefanie was not permitted to attend the commencement exercises, unless she wanted to go as an observer. She was not permitted to walk across the stage and have her hard work over the last four years acknowledged; she was not permitted to wear a cap and gown; she was not permitted to share a very special moment with her friends and classmates. Nothing.

I know what you're thinking. "Well, she didn't complete the requirements. Why should she receive acknowledgement for something she hasn't accomplished yet?"

Here's why.

My child got pregnant during her junior year in high school. I know, her fault. Agreed. You learn from it and move on. She had the baby during her senior year, earned grades placing her on the honor roll the semester she delivered her baby, missed just two weeks of school after having the baby, returned to high school and graduated on time, with her class.

She started as a Freshman at St. Anselm College in the fall of 2007, living at home, raising a baby. While other students were deciding what color to paint their dorm rooms, Stefanie was changing diapers.

While other students were going out partying on Friday night, "unwinding" after their tough week of watching soap operas and hanging out and every so often going to class, Stefanie was staying up all night with a sick baby, taking her temperature or rubbing a tiny runny nose or rocking her to sleep.

While other students hung out in their dorm room or strolled across the campus to the coffee shop or went to concerts, Stefanie went to class and then rushed straight to work or straight home to care for her child, studying whenever she could, during naps or playtime.

In my mind it's an amazingly impressive accomplishment that this young single mother came as close as she did to graduating on time, with her class, given all that was on her plate, especially since she was taking a very difficult science major.

Saint Anselm College had every right to exclude my child from the graduation. After all, they set the requirements and she didn't quite meet them. But they missed a real opportunity to celebrate a student who has overcome tremendous odds to achieve success in a non-traditional way.

They didn't have to hand her a diploma during commencement; that would have been completely understandable. After all, she hasn't earned it. Yet. But to refuse her the chance to celebrate with her class when she has overcome so much in the last four years I believe to be small-minded and petty in the extreme.

Over the last couple of months Stefanie received countless "graduation" things in the mail, all of which were thrown in the trash because they didn't apply to her. Cap and gown measurements and order forms, commencement invitation forms, all kinds of things were sent to her in preparation for a graduation that she was not permitted to take part.

The fact that these things showed up in the mail at all was a stark testament to a college administration that didn't care enough about one of their students to simply take her name off the mailing list.

But my child never complained once; she did what she always does. She kept her head up and continued marching forward, thereby making herself the best kind of role model for her child, who is now four years old and smart as a whip.

Interestingly, on the Saint Anselm College website, they claim one of the foundations of campus life to be "The Benedictine Catholic tradition of nurturing human understanding through liberal education..." You'll have to pardon me if I question whether anyone in the school's administration really understands those words.

So there you have it. Shame on you, Saint Anselm College, for applying the rules so rigidly and indiscriminately that you failed to recognize grit and spirit and hard work when it was right there in front of your closed and uncaring eyes.

And by the way, all those cards and letters you keep sending me, asking for donations so you can continue your "mission" of educating the minds of young adults? You can forget about getting anything more from me. I would drive down the road throwing hundred dollar bills out my open window before I would give you another red cent.


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