Collect degree, shake hands - but no seflies

Collect degree, shake hands - but no seflies
A student takes a selfie at the NUS graduation ceremony

When Nanyang Technological University (NTU) communication studies graduate Terence Heng, 26, went on stage last August to collect his degree scroll, there was something else he wanted - a wefie with the presiding officer.

He pulled out his iPhone, fumbled with its buttons - almost dropping the device at one point - and snapped the shot.

"I didn't want the standard photograph," said Mr Heng, a social media executive, though he admitted that it had been embarrassing with so many people looking on and waiting for him.

This year,NTU and the National University of Singapore (NUS) are discouraging students from taking selfies and wefies on stage, a practice which started only in the last couple of years.

With more than 18,800 students graduating from both universities and 41 ceremonies between July and early August, such antics would not only be inappropriate but cause the ceremonies to drag on, the universities said.

NUS, which put up an online advisory this year on appropriate etiquette when collecting a degree, reminded students to "accord due respect to the presiding officer" by limiting contact to a handshake.

Several university students last year had surprised audiences with wefies on stage. Some like Ms Anisah Ahmad even snapped a selfie with presiding officers, such as President Tony Tan Keng Yam, in the background.

"I thought it would be quite cool to have a photo with the President," said the civil servant, 27, who graduated with a master's degree in public policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS last July. "Students have worked hard to get on that stage so, naturally, they would want to capture that moment."

On its website, NUS also said that with the large number of graduates at each ceremony, time could not be spared for such delays. Already, a typical graduation event for about 400 students could last two hours. Adding just 10 seconds more a student would stretch it to over three hours.

An NUS spokesman said the instructions are to ensure each ceremony will "run smoothly and in a timely manner, and be a positive and memorable experience".

At NTU, ushers will remind students before they collect their scrolls not to disrupt each session by taking pictures on stage.

Professor Kam Chan Hin, NTU's senior associate provost of undergraduate education, said some students may get a little carried away.

"While it is a celebration, decorum befitting this formal occasion should be exercised," he said.

"They should be considerate."

A spokesman for the Singapore Management University, which has 2,200 students graduating this year, said they get free photos taken by professional photographers.

"Any other camera with flash might spoil the professional photo, so the emcee will make an appropriate announcement at the start of the ceremony," she said.

Graduating students told The Straits Times that they recognise it is a formal occasion.

Though they understand why their peers would want to celebrate the end of their educational journey with a selfie or wefie, they should not delay the ceremony for everyone else, some said.

Said final-year NUS business student Lenard Lou, 25: "I think there are other ways to celebrate besides taking selfies on stage. But I believe there will be a few black sheep who would go ahead and do it anyway."

ateng@sph.com.sg

calyang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 16, 2015.
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