Provost to freshmen: college experience is “pure potential”
By Jessica Ullian
Members of the Class of 2008 were offered a new, unspoiled world this week, and told that they were expected to take good care of it.
In his address to the incoming class, Provost ad interim David Campbell welcomed 4,300 first-year students to Boston University at the Matriculation Ceremony, held on September 6 at the Track and Tennis Center.
Calling them “the best-qualified class ever admitted to Boston University,” Campbell told the freshmen that their life at the University was a blank slate, and they had to decide how to fill it.
“The fall semester is still a fresh, unbroken horizon of pure potential,” Campbell said, pointing out that they had not yet incurred any library fines, missed any classes, or established a grade point average. “It is entirely up to you what becomes of that potential.”
Campbell also welcomed the class on behalf of President ad interim Aram V. Chobanian, who was unable to attend the ceremony because of a recent medical procedure. Campbell offered the students his words of support after giving them a brief history of BU and the ideals established by its first president, William Fairfield Warren.
Warren’s vision of a university where students would receive an education “regardless of sex, race, or religion” has been realized since the University’s founding, Campbell said. He told the class that all programs were open to women from the start, that at one point almost half the African-American doctoral candidates in religion and philosophy in this country were from BU, and that the school was among the first to train women as doctors.
Then Campbell reminded the first-year students of their own qualifications: an average SAT score of 1297 and an average GPA of 3.54; 60 percent of the Class of 2008 graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school class, 80 percent in the top 20 percent.
“We have the people, the programs, and the faculty in place to help you succeed,” Campbell said. “It is now up to you to do that work.”
The themes of renewal and potential were echoed by other speakers. Jonathan Marker (CAS’07), president of the Student Union, told the class that they were united by a sense of liberation.
“You have all been granted your personal freedom,” he said. “Freedom from your mistakes, freedom from your embarrassments, freedom from your past.” In just one year, he said, he had traveled from a seat in the audience at Matriculation to a spot on the podium, and he encouraged the first-year students to try “pushing or ignoring” their own boundaries.
Joel Sheveloff, a professor of music at the College of Fine Arts and the winner of the 2004 Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the University’s highest teaching honor, told the students that they must “do far more than regurgitate” what is in their textbooks. “We expect you to proceed further than we have,” he said, “to develop new methods for revealing the mysteries of the universe.”
The messages of Matriculation were not exclusively focused on academics, however. Students were encouraged to get involved in extracurricular activities and learn about the city’s history and culture.
Sheveloff reminded the class that many of the exhibitions and performances at CFA are both high-caliber and low-cost. “So much about life in Boston may seem costly to you, but the value of a cheap date cannot be overestimated,” he said.
Campbell, in his concluding remarks, told the students to enjoy Boston’s collegiate and professional sports offerings, and asked the Red Sox fans in the Track and Tennis Center to raise their hands. Many did, but a few voices distinctly shouted, “Go Yankees!”
Campbell was not bothered by the reaction. “I promise you that in four years, all the hands will go up,” he said.