Graduation is a special event that marks the end of a student's academic journey and the beginning of a new one. It is a time of celebration and reflection, and it is also known as commencement. But why is it called commencement?The word “commencement” comes from the Latin inceptio, which means “beginning”. This term was used by medieval European scholars to refer to the initiation ceremony that marked the end of a student's studies and the beginning of their new privileges in the academic world.
At this ceremony, the student would give a banquet as a thank you to their teachers and friends. They would also give their first lecture as a legitimate teacher, thus beginning their teaching career. This is why commencement is seen as the start of something new, rather than the end of something old. Graduation ceremonies are performative rituals in which the ceremony itself confers the title.
These ceremonies are often referred to as “graduation exercises”, as they involve “the end of a phase” or “abandoning a certain level in school”. It is a time for students to leave behind years of effort, hard work and fun, and move on to something more complex or with added value.At universities, graduation is still referred to as commencement because the university is actually in session during that ceremony. The emphasis on hooding doctorate maces, symbols of authority that were first used in the 13th century graduation processions in Oxford and Cambridge, is still taking place at the beginning of the University of California.No matter what we call it, graduation marks an important milestone in a student's life. It is a time for them to reflect on their accomplishments and look forward to what lies ahead.