Wednesday vs. Saturday Baccalaureate?

Commencement is the most important of college traditions, and one of the activities that fills our Commencement weekend is the Baccalaureate service, which takes place on Saturday afternoon in Mead Chapel.

Traditionally, the purpose of Baccalaureate was/is for the president to give a farewell address to the seniors, which the president now gives to graduating seniors and their families.  Because space is limited in Mead, our largest (and traditional venue) we hold two services.

Over the years, students have questioned the logic of dividing the class for this event, since it represents the “other bookend” of one’s education, where the first bookend was first-year convocation.  At convocation, the president welcomes students to campus, and addresses the entire class as one. 
Following several queries from students, we have been discussing what alternatives we have to the current set up.  One that has been proposed would be to move the hour-long Baccalaureate service to Senior Week, and hold it on Wednesday afternoon just before the Senior BBQ.  In this scenario, we would hold just one service, which would enable the entire senior class to be together in Mead just as they were at Convocation when they first entered Middlebury.  We could then have a class picture following baccalaureate as we did following convocation, and move the senior BBQ to the quad in front of McCullough. It would also open up Saturday afternoon for families to take part in other events on campus, or just share time together.  The downside to this option is that families would not be able to attend the service with the graduating seniors.
I would like to know whether this option has any appeal to the class of 2009. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.  Thanks.

UPDATE: sorry for the original typo and thanks for finding it.  I did mean the Class of 2009


Definitely Wednesday, before the BBQ. No need for our families to be there, and just as you say, more fun if you address us as one big group as we were freshman year.

Considering the senior class came in on their own as first-years and was addressed at the beginning of their college career independent from their families, it would be fitting to end these four years in the same way. I trust there are other venues for families to be addressed by the President during Senior Week?

I really don’t think our parents care that much about being at this – it is commencement itself that they are there for.

I vote for having the whole class participate in this on wednesday.

Also, why just for the class of 2010? Is it too late for 2009 to have this option?

Alexander Manshel

Alexander Manshel’s avatar

President Liebowitz,

I think your idea regarding the Wednesday baccalaureate is an excellent one. Students and their families have quite a bit of stress just shuttling themselves around the weekend’s events as is; moving baccalaureate would certainly ease this pressure. Moreover, the opportunity to share your address with my class in its entirety, before the weekend’s frenzy sets in, would be a pleasure. I wholly support this option. Thank you for this idea and I hope that the Wednesday service finds equal support with my classmates.



There is mention of this option having appeal to the class of 2010, but is this also a suggestion for the class of 2009’s commencement ceremonies?

I think it is a great idea to try to have all of the seniors(or as many as will attend)together for this farewell ceremony. The parents did not take part in Convocation, so it is not imperative that they be present for Baccalaureate. As long as they are in the audience when the degrees are conferred, that is all that matters to me. It also makes the logistics of senior class picture much simpler.

All-together in Mead before BBQ. Yay for symmetrical bookends!

Wednesday sounds good.

Wednesday as one class. Thanks!

Definitely Wednesday with the whole class. Also, I know that there were a lot of complaints last year over the content of your speech (chiding parents on college drinking). I think this should be a celebratory speech, not a lecture on your disapproval of our actions over the past four years.

Just going to add that I agree. I’m pretty sure parents just want to see their kids get diplomas…that is separate, correct? I’ve never graduated from college before (haha) so not sure what is involved in what. But I definitely support any effort to make that last day less stressful and more celebratory!

I agree, being together as an entire class is more important than having our families there. Thanks!

Yes, Anonymous at 12:25, last year I did get considerable commentary/blow-back on the choice of venue/event for what even the most harsh critics believed was an important message….As I have stated before (back in June on this blog), the intent was not to chide, though it did come across that way to some, as there was, perhaps a bit buried, a message to graduates about joining their next communities….

I agree the occasion should be one for celebration, and it will be this May. Thanks for the post.

Saturday. I want my parents there

I think that the Wednesday idea is a great one – Much better to be one class, and have Saturday afternoon free.

I agree, Wednesday as one for sure.

My Baccalaureate is several months passed, but I hope you don’t mind if I chime in. May I ask why we have a baccalaureate? The FAQs on the commencement website say: “Middlebury College is and always has been a nonsectarian institution, although its founding in 1800 grew out of a Protestant tradition. The Baccalaureate Service pays honor to the history and traditions of the College, one of which has been an address to the senior class by the President at the time of Commencement. The order of the Baccalaureate Service is intended to welcome people of all faiths, while at the same time acknowledging the College’s institutional and intellectual heritage. We extend warm greetings to all those in attendance, affirming the importance of those shared human values that are central to all religious traditions and beliefs. Through this service, we both recognize our past and celebrate the diversity of belief encompassed by the members of the senior class, their families, and friends.”

I really disagree that the service is “welcom[ing] . . . of all faiths” and it “celebrate[s] the diversity of belief encompassed by the members of the senior class, their families, and friends.” I have read the programs from years past (available in Special Collections) and the service is heavily Protestant-based. Moreover, people of different faiths pray in different ways. Catholics kneel; Muslims prostrate themselves; the list goes on. I didn’t happen to attend my Baccalaureate service, but are accommodations made for these differences? The service also ignores that there are people in the community who are atheists and do not pray. I fully support an individual’s right to practice freely the religion of his or her choosing, but not if it infringes upon the rights of another’s religious practices, or lack thereof. I realize that nobody is forced to pray at Baccalaureate, but no one should discount how uncomfortable it is to be the only one (or one of a few) not praying. Or, the discomfort of not being able to pray how you want to pray.

I would support a Baccalaureate Service similar in spirit to Convocation, minus the religious connotations. I would also support the elimination of the two prayers at graduation.

I agree with Wednesday.

Wednesday sounds better–I don’t think any parents really feel the need to be there for the Baccalaureate, and it would be nice to have the whole class together for it before the barbecue.

President Liebowitz,

I really like the idea of having a student-only Baccalaureate on Wednesday. Now the question is, will there be a Presidential address at Liebowitz Day?

-The Class of 2009

Saturday. I ache to think of having to tell my parents that they would not be able to attend my Baccalaureate. Celebrating a child’s graduation from college should not be isolated to a single event on the Sunday morning, only to then run away to rush to move out of the dorms. Families have already made plans for graduation with the idea in mind that this tradition will be part of their celebratory activities. For some students, their families have spend very little time at Middlebury as a result of distance and finances and will relish every moment and every activity. The entire weekend is important to our families, even if we may be reluctant to appreciate that fact.

To Anonymous at 1:50 p.m.:

Gee, I have never been invited to a Liebowitz Day event. Don’t even know when it is!

Natalie Komrovsky

Natalie Komrovsky’s avatar

Wednesday would be best

Definitely Wednesday! great idea…

Wednesday! It would be nice to be together- I think this part is more meaningful for us then it is for our families

mr president

we’ll hold a liebowitz day party whenever you want to come party with us…

I think it’s inappropriate to exclude parents. They paid for this education, and the graduation weekend is really more for the family than for the graduate anyway. We have senior week to spend with the class–and I think that the address probably means more to the parents than to a bunch of hung-over seniors. No offense.

It seems to make a lot more sense to have Baccalaureate with everyone at once, so: yaay Wednesday!

Let’s all be together.

You do not mention if there is a ceremony that will be held for the parents. As someone has stated earlier, our parents have paid our tuition and many come from afar to celebrate their children’s graduation.

I’m all for making this a more celebratory and relaxed affair, but graduation is just as much for the parents as the students. I think the parents should get a say as well.

Anon at 4:59 p.m. (which I believe is really 3:59 as it is only 4:06 right now) — yes, of course, there will be a reception or lunch specifically for parents. It will either be held Friday around 5:30 p.m. with heavy hors d’oeuvres, or a parents’ lunch on Saturday.

Depends on when we hold baccalaureate.


While I think it would be great to have the whole class together, I think Saturday is better because I want my family to have a chance to be fully involved in my graduation. It is a time for celebration and Baccalaureate is a time I would want to celebrate with my family. I’ll party with my friends later.

I think Wednesday would be best…I find it odd that the president gives this speech twice.

I agree that this event should be geared towards the students, celebratory and should be held on Wednesday.

My parents were looking forward to the service, so they would be disappointed.

I think that parents want to be a part of this event as they are at other institutions. The class photo could be done just as well before or after the luncheon.

I agree with anon above. My parents, who have spent no time at Middlebury since dropping me off freshman year, I think would be quite disappointed if they didn’t get to experience this tradition. I know they look forward to these types of traditions as I am the first one in my family to attend a private college. Additionally, we’ve already booked their reservations to be here on Saturday. Thanks for your consideration.

Be together as a class.

Having been a part of Baccalaureate in the past as part of the College Choir, my vote would be for the ceremony to be on Wednesday. Baccalaureate is neat, but our parents will get to hear speeches and the school songs Sunday morning at Commencement. The schedule for graduation weekend in the past hasn’t really allowed for a lot time to have graduation parties for everyone’s families to meet. Since the class is split up in the afternoon for Baccalaureate, it makes getting everyone together sort of difficult. There are all the ceremonies on Saturday morning as well. Also, since you only get 3 Baccalaureate tickets, it only ends up being you and your parents, so the rest of your extended family isn’t included.

I like the idea of the whole class being together on Wednesday for Baccalaureate and then having Saturday afternoon free for other stuff.

Our parents will have ample hours to hang out with us in the time surrounding graduation. I would really appreciate a student-attended, united ceremony pre-BBQ ribs.

Wednesday seems to fit the Senior Week schedule better. There are other opportunities to spend time with parents.

Molley Kaiyoorawongs

Molley Kaiyoorawongs’s avatar

Why not have one on Wed. for the seniors and then one on Saturday for families that would otherwise feel jipped and seniors who feel so strongly that this should be a family event that they don’t mind attending the same ceremony twice?
Alethea’s concern would then also be addressed since there would probably be more room for extended family members.

As in years past, you would be addressing an audience twice and everyone would be happy!

About Sarah Franco’s comments: I remember singing at Baccalaureate but don’t remember feeling uncomfortable (as I am singing at chapel services and Lessons and Carols). This is either due to bad memory or the fact that the ceremony really is welcoming of different faiths. I think the latter.
With regard to the prayer at graduation, however, I concur with Sarah. I remember supplications being made to a heavenly father– not something we generally have in Theravada Buddhism.

Micah: to clarify…there is no “presidential address” at commencement. The president simply presides over the events, awarding of honorary degrees, the B.A. degrees, etc.

wednesday= better idea. so much better.

Deirdre Henderson, Parent

Deirdre Henderson, Parent’s avatar

I have never been to a commencement weekend at any college where the baccalaureate service was Not part of the weekend’s commencement festivities– and that includes families. Our older son went to Brown where the tradition is to have the baccalaurate address the day before commencement at Providence’s historic First Baptist Meeting House, just down College Hill from the campus. The Meeting House barely accommodates the graduating class, so the service is broadcast on large screens on the campus for families. Behind every student is a family that has supported the student and should be given the opportunity to fully participate in, celebrate and enjoy the traditions of their child’s college graduation.

One of the considerations was for a single baccalaureate service on Saturday so as to have the senior class together, but to have it also broadcast in McCullough (425 seats) and Dana (275 seats), plus speakers outside the chapel. The graduating class would be in the chapel and other guests at Dana, McCullough, and outside the chapel. Still an option. RL

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