Graduation cords to be eliminated from ceremony this year

January 31, 2011 — by Jackie Gu and Karen Yang

2010 graduates received red and gold cords, for community service and academic honors, respectively.

When the class of 2011 walks down the field in their caps and gowns during the graduation ceremony on June 16, the red and gold cords that have typically adorned students’ necklines indicating achievements in community service and academic honors will be missing.

The idea for this change was initiated by principal Jeff Anderson, who decided to remove the cords because he felt that the ceremony should not be about individual recognition, but rather about recognizing the class as a unified whole.

“The day of graduation we want to honor everybody,” Anderson said. “Whether you are at the top of your class, at the bottom, in the middle, it’s the class of 2011—it’s a ceremony for the group, and we feel that to individually distinguish folks at that ceremony takes away from the idea that you guys are the class of 2011.”

Anderson had considered removal of the graduation cords for a while before deciding to act this year. Influenced by his experience at previous high schools, where the administration’s philosophy highlighted the milestone of graduation as an undivided class rather than as separate individuals, he chose to make the change at Saratoga High as well.

“It’s great to honor people, but on that day we should be honoring the whole class,” Anderson said. “They’ve all met the same graduation requirements to get that diploma, and everybody is in the same boat at the ceremony.”

Despite the absence of the cords from the ceremony, students will still be honored with cords earned for academic achievements and community service during the senior awards ceremony, held three days before graduation, as well have their names listed on the programs distributed to the audience on the day of graduation.

“All those distinctions and scholarships will be in the program, so when everybody comes from out of town, all those accolades are still in print,” Anderson said. “It’s just that when we’re looking at the group of graduates, they’ll all be equal.”

Although the administration has yet to publicize its decision, Anderson acknowledges that some students and parents will undoubtedly have dissenting opinions on the change.

“Any time you change something, some people will say, change it next year when my kid’s gone,” Anderson said. “But we’ll face the music, and I think we’re on firm ground about why we’re doing it, so we’re going to stick with it.”

Several students said they oppose the change on the grounds that the absence of honor cords at the ceremony detracts from their persistence and efforts in maintaining a solid GPA. Others argue that the traditional cap and gown outfit is incomplete without the additional ornamentation of the cords.

“Taking the cords away is a really big shock because the honor cords represent all the academic work we’ve done over all our four years,” senior Carina Chu said.

Still, some support the idea that the extra adorning of the cords at the ceremony is unnecessary. Although senior Gavin Chu has spent countless hours doing community service in his four years at SHS, he understands that the cords are not significant in honoring his dedication to volunteer work.

“I like volunteering, so it doesn’t really matter if I get the cord or not,” Gavin Chu said. “The cord is just recognition for other people to see, so if they take it away, it doesn’t really matter to me.”

Anderson himself holds faith that students are not influenced by the incentive of cords as much as the less tangible rewards earned from pushing themselves academically and serving their community.

“I would like to think people are doing community service because they want to serve their community, not to try and get a piece of twine around their necks,” Anderson said with a smile.

“I think there’s more to it than that, so I don’t perceive this as being something that’s going to stop the world on its axis.”

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