Graduation from Hell: Johns Hopkins University Commencement 2011

The dangerously heat-susceptible site at Homewood Field made the Johns Hopkins University Graduation one of the most unpleasant celebrations.

This morning, from about 8:40 a.m. (EST) to 12 p.m., my family and I attended the Johns Hopkins University Commencement at Homewood Field in 90 degree weather. My excellent sister graduated with honors (in both sociology and psychology =] ) after my mom, dad and I (along with everyone who wasn’t underneath the “special people” tent in the front) suffered through the most unpleasant celebration the university could have planned.

After 40 minutes watching my sister and the other graduates “process” in, my mom and dad encouraged me to leave the stands where we and other spectators were sitting. Homewood Field is a lacrosse field, so naturally the seats were not so much seats as metal benches. Sitting on the benches in today’s weather was like sitting on a hot stove. With a dress and sweat beading down my legs, I followed my parents’ advice and found a shady spot where I could still listen to the speeches. Though some of the speakers were potentially interesting (Fareed Zakaria of TIME magazine and CNN was their big-shot speaker of the day), every speech was lackluster and only made the heat more unpleasant.

Once they had begun suffering through the speeches (and realized how bad the sun was), my mom and dad and everyone else (or at least it seemed that way) attempted to find shade as well. Though I was sitting on a little wall along a road next to a forest, near the medical tent there was a shaded area with lots of fold-out chairs. Both my parents and I relocated to this area halfway through the speeches and decided that this was the most ridiculous event that we had ever attended. The heat, coupled with the direct sunlight, made the JHU 2011 Graduation one of the silliest things ever.

Several graduates’ relatives and friends (some in their 90s), forced to watch the ceremony from the stadium seats in direct sunlight, needed emergency medical attention for what appeared to be dehydration or heat exhaustion. I counted two ambulances, but there were most certainly more.

My dad asked medical assistant if the event was like “this” every year. He–seemingly sighing in indignation–explained that, yes, it was this hot every year.  My dad then asked why they would hold the event in such a site if it was always so hot, when it was dangerous for spectators and graduates. The guy explained that the field was not a good place for the event. Well duh.

For the rest of the ceremony, we continued to wonder:

  • I remembered passing the Baltimore Convention Center on my way to the hotel yesterday. Couldn’t it be held there?
  • My dad believed the tent where the speakers and university president sat was air-conditioned, otherwise they wouldn’t continue with such a hot and dangerous tradition (i.e. having the Commencement at Homewood Field).
  • My mom and dad were both concerned about my sister: all graduates wore black robes and had no hope of dodging the sun.
  • If they were hoping to save some money by holding the event on Homewood Field, wouldn’t removing the added cost of extra emergency medical staff cover rent for a safer event space?

While it’s still unclear why my sister waited four years for this punishment, she graduated safely without passing out. In the following video I attempt to show the heat’s severity (one man is on a cot being treated, but there were others after I shot this video). I just got a tutorial in my summer journalism class about filming “sites” but I’m still not so good with the camera. It’s a bit shaky and blurry, but I think viewers will get the gist of the hell my family (and many others) went through today.

If you listen closely, you can hear two medical staff speaking about the necessity of another ambulance because of the number of potential patients. Seriously JHU President Daniels?

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One thought on “Graduation from Hell: Johns Hopkins University Commencement 2011

  1. I was at the ceremonies yesterday with senior citizens in our family. I too found it hard to believe such a prestigious school could hold graduation outside on a sporting field. Though not as hot last night as today it was still pretty humid. Very uncomfortable seats in the direct sun to say the least. I also thought the long hilly walk to and from the parking areas were not good for the elderly or handicapped. At a minimum the ceremony should have been inside. I hope all that attended were able to make it home.

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