Want a photo with your diploma? Exit stage right first, please
CHAMPAIGN — Coby, get ready for your closeup.
Selfie, that is.
Because you can't experience anything, let alone a graduation, these days without snapping a cellphone photo of yourself, Parkland College's mascot, Coby the Cobra, will be mingling and available for photoshoots prior to commencement next Thursday.
"It's celebratory time," said college spokeswoman Patty Lehn. "We knew that time before the graduation ceremony is typically a time of waiting. With the popularity of selfies this year, we thought we'd facilitate a little more fun for students," she said.
Parkland's commencement is held at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana and before the event begins, graduates line up in the basement of the building. That's where Coby will be flashing his (or her?) serpentine smile. About 275 students are expected to participate in Parkland's commencement exercises. This is the first time the college has done such a thing and it will likely be a big event for Coby, who is sporting a new, updated look.
As for Parkland College officials, who will be on stage handing out diplomas, they are not expected to encourage selfies with students. Instead, they'll be focusing on keeping the event on schedule.
Some schools across the country, including the University of South Florida, have banned selfies, fearing that the typically long ceremonies will drag on even longer as students whip out their cell phones and take pictures of themselves walking across the stage and receiving their diploma from college presidents or trustees.
Officials from area colleges and schools said they do not anticipate any problems with selfie-related delays at commencement exercises.
"This year, from a campuswide perspective, we did not take any policy stance on it," said University of Illinois spokesman Chris Harris.
The UI has one campuswide ceremony planned for May 17 in Memorial Stadium. (In previous years, two ceremonies have been held — one in the morning, one in the afternoon — in what was then called the Assembly Hall.). The commencement speaker is astronaut Mike Hopkins; about 3,000 students are expected to participate.
At the UI's campuswide ceremonies, undergraduates do not walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, but stand up and are recognized in groups. Doctoral candidates do cross the stage to receive their diplomas, and the Graduate College is expected to make a statement sometime in the near future that essentially reiterates the need for graduates to move quickly, according to Harris.
Some colleges on campus hold their own graduation ceremonies; Harris said he was not aware of any individual colleges banning selfies during those events.
At Eastern Illinois University this Saturday, organizers have asked students not to bring their cellphones, said spokeswoman Vicki Shaw-Woodard.
"They want them to keep in mind this is a ceremony and to be respectful of everyone there," she said.
But it's not a policy that will be policed, she said.
"The main thing is we want people to be respectful of everyone else in attendance, to make it a good experience for everybody," she said.
Danville Area Community College hasn't had a problem with graduates and cellphones, said Dave Kietzmann, vice president of instruction and student services.
"We are very proud of the fact that we keep our graduation to 60 or 70 minutes, especially since it's held in the gym, which can be very hot in May," he said, adding about 175 to 200 students, or almost half who will receive degrees, typically go through commencement exercises.
"We also have a professional photographer who takes pictures of every graduate," Kietzmann said. "It's their choice whether they buy them or not. We also allow parents or a spouse or a significant other walk up to the front to take a picture when their graduate walks across the stage."
In Hoopeston, graduates can leave their cellphones at home, Superintendent Hank Hornbeck said.
"We just don't want them to become a disruption," he said.
Hoopeston has a formal picture taking session before and after the baccalaureate service.
"They come in their caps and gowns," Hornbeck said. "Afterward, they can go in the gym and take as many pictures as they want. That seems to work out really well."
Gregory Johnson, Centennial High School's principal, said he doesn't anticipate any problems.