While it may be a socially acceptable protocol for the U.S. President at Nelson Mandela’s funeral or for Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars, taking a selfie with USF President Judy Genshaft on stage will no longer be an acceptable behavior at USF graduation ceremonies.
The no-selfie rule came as one of four “requests” the office of the Dean for Students sent to graduating seniors in an attempt to be “more respectful of the ceremony.”
Also prohibited is “strolling,” “stepping” and “marching,” actions Freeman said are often seen with fraternity members or organizations that at times “lack context” to the general audience watching.
Dean for Students Michael Freeman said most students’ graduation etiquette is usually acceptable, but the requests came after he noticed at his first USF graduation ceremony last May a graduating senior do an inappropriate dance when he approached President Judy Genshaft on stage.
“You don’t want to quash people’s excitement,” he said. “It’s an emotional and exciting time. … But this is a serious academic ceremony.”
Selfies, he said, one of the more hotly contested rules, weren’t an issue until quite recently. During the last set of ceremonies, he said, he noticed they could cause multiple problems during the ceremony as students hid phones in their robes and pulled them out as they approached the president to shake her hand and pause for the official graduation photo, taken by the USF contracted vendor, GradImages.
“In the times we live in now, unfortunately we can’t be sure of the swift and startling movements (of pulling out a phone),” Freeman said. “It’s a little bit selfish and a little bit disrespectful.”
Furthermore, he said, the official photos then come out with faces blocked by hand and camera.
While he said he couldn’t speak to USF specifically, a representative for the Tallahassee-based GradImages said he didn’t think the rising trend of selfies had much of an impact on GradImages’ overall business.
But some students took issue with the request.
Kendyl Montgomery, who will graduate with her masters’ degrees, said she sees the pervasiveness of selfies in contemporary culture even at the middle school level, where she teaches.
“As long as it’s not interrupting the ceremony, I don’t see what’s the problem,” she said. “I’m paying a lot of money, so let me take a selfie.”
But other students said they thought the requests were appropriate.
“It’s one thing if they said you couldn’t take selfies while sitting down,” Kimberly Charles, a senior majoring in social work, said. “But on stage, there should be some level of professionalism. It would take away from other people’s experiences.”
The guidelines state that “a simple handshake” with the president is preferred, though Freeman said at times he has seen students and athletes who know her well hug her or receive a hug from her.
Though Freeman said the requests aren’t intended to be stiff “dogma or policy” but merely requests, an email sent to all graduating seniors said failure to follow the requests could result in the withholding of diplomas.