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  • Rutuparna Deshpande

Convocation 2023: a seating debacle

May 26 marks the convocation date for the graduating batches of 2023, including the undergraduate cohort, the largest yet to come out of Ashoka. This year’s convocation is only the second regular offline ceremony since the pandemic halted all large events. A one-guest-per-person policy for the live ceremony, as announced in an email, had sparked controversy. With last year’s ceremony facing a delay due to pandemic-era considerations and the previous two batches getting a combined virtual convocation, followed by a “Homecoming” event in December – anticipation about possible dates and arrangements for the current year were abound in conversations within the UG23 batch.

In an email dated March 23, the convocation team announced this year’s event, mentioning that the ceremony would be held on campus.

Three weeks later, on April 13, the graduating cohorts received an email from the team, attached was the mandatory RSVP form and the following notice: “Kindly also note that a maximum of one individual will be allowed to accompany each student inside the convocation venue. There will be live screening across multiple venues on campus for other guests to attend.”

The team added that pass allocation would be reviewed once all RSVPSs had been confirmed.

The notice quickly sparked strong reactions from UG23s, with Adith Dhawan’s (UG23) reply stating “brother i have two parents” coming merely 10 minutes after students received the original email. Other students echoed similar concerns, with replies ranging from satirical to deeply frustrated. Students pointed out that it would be inconsiderate to only allow one guest per person at the live venue, given that graduation is a milestone event for many.

Some called the additional screenings “insulting” and protested against having to choose between parents to accompany them into the venue. Others noted their dissatisfaction about UG23 not getting an offline orientation week and spending the early years of their degree exclusively online, pointing out that the one-guest policy only added to the diminished experience of their undergraduate years.

Given the gap of nearly a month between the date being announced and the notice, many parents had already booked flight tickets and made accommodation arrangements. Rohan Pai’s (UG23) email on the thread noted that the administration had 3 years since the batch of UG23 had been admitted to make suitable arrangements, mentioning the unprecedented nature of the guest policy.

By way of solutions, a comprehensive document offering step-by-step resolutions and counterarguments to the quagmire was shared with the convocation team and the student body on April 14. This document, titled “An Appeal from the Graduating Batch”, was undersigned by 148 students. It suggested that either the cohorts be split in a way that would accommodate two guests or the venue be changed to a larger one in the Delhi-NCR region.

Stating that “Each moment of delay in the rectification would mean people having to shell out thousands of rupees more to travel to their children’s graduation. To assume that we are able to book and/or cancel already booked tickets depending upon each new decision announced as we get even closer to the convocation, is to be quite blinded by privilege.”

To bolster the stakes involved, the authors supplied a list of tenable airline prices from major cities to Delhi, also sending an updated list with higher prices 4 days later after the original document remained unacknowledged.

Despite the appeal to urgency, the convocations team’s reply came on April 20, briefing the authors of the document that their suggestions were being considered. Further reiterating that family members would be able to watch the graduation via live screenings on campus.

Respite to students’ concerns finally came on April 24, less than a month from the scheduled day of the convocation ceremony. The organizing team announced that two guests would be allowed to attend the live ceremony.

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