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BU Matriculation Ceremony Welcomes Class of 2019

Brown urges freshmen to “embrace BU’s diversity in all its forms”


Play the whole keyboard, President Robert A. Brown urged the 3,625 members of the Class of 2019 gathered at Agannis Arena Sunday for BU’s annual Matriculation ceremony, which officially welcomes the incoming freshman class.

A György Ligeti piano etude involving all 88 keys, performed before Brown’s speech by Moisès Fernández Via of the Arts Outreach Initiative, provided a metaphor for the diversity of experiences available at BU.

“Just as Ligeti composed his piece to induce an aspiring pianist to use the full range of the keyboard, I encourage you to reach for everything that Boston University has to offer,” Brown told the freshmen sitting before him, many clad in Terrier scarlet, as their parents looked on.

“I encourage you to make friends and work with students from other regions and countries, from other races, who hold different religious and political beliefs, and whose academic and career aspirations differ from yours,” Brown said. “I hope you will socialize with people who don’t look like you, and who don’t share your customs or, perhaps, your moral view. I recognize that reaching beyond the familiar can feel uncomfortable, much like our reaction to the discordant tones in Ligeti’s etude as the performer fully exploits the piano’s expressive potential.”

Emphasizing BU’s diversity and international flavor, he noted that transcending boundaries will be ever more important in confronting today’s most pressing challenges, including terrorism, racism, and climate change.

“Our prosperity has been built on a fossil fuel economy that appears not to be viable in the decades ahead,” Brown said. “But how does the international community, individual nations, and each of us make the changes needed to replace fossil fuel in our daily lives?”

BU Class of 2019 Matriculation

Members of the Class of 2019 make their way up Comm Ave to the 2015 Matriculation ceremony at Agganis Arena.

He asked students if they were willing to reduce their own consumption or to pay a carbon tax and higher prices for goods. “Your values are part of the fabric of our society,” he said. “The advocacy and votes of individuals translate into policies, and these policies have consequences for all of us.”

The ceremony began with a procession by the class up Commonwealth Avenue in sweltering temperatures, led by Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87). But inside the arena, student speaker Andrew Cho (CAS’16), Student Government president, recalled last winter’s frigid challenges.

Cho spoke of having built his identity at BU around a busy life balancing friends, academics, and activities. He went on to note that his identity was challenged by last winter’s record snow and the resulting cancellations and closings. “I had more solitude than I knew what to do with,” he recalled. “I felt empty and alone.” It was only then that he recognized that “the only unshakable identity I have ever known was my identity in God.” The winter’s struggles ended up bringing him closer to his faith.

“To all the overachievers out there—which is probably all of you—remember to make time in your schedule to cherish your solitude,” Cho advised the new Terriers.

In his speech, Brown outlined the University’s transformation from a Methodist seminary to an internationally renowned research university that today “serves the nation and the world.” He then touched on two topics he said he wished he didn’t need to discuss, but must: binge drinking and sexual assault.

President Robert A. Brown told the assembled freshmen that crossing boundaries of all kinds will be essential to solving problems like racism and climate change.  3. The Class of 2019 makes its way up Commonwealth Avenue to the 2015 Matriculation ceremony at Agganis Arena.

President Robert A. Brown told the freshmen that crossing boundaries of all kinds will be essential to solving problems like racism and climate change.

“Some of you might believe your actions on Friday and Saturday night won’t have an impact on your academic performance,” he said. “Let me give you some numbers that might be sobering.”

In a recent year, he said, the median GPA of freshman who required medical treatment after a single binge drinking episode was almost a 0.3 grade point below that of that year’s entire freshman class. The GPA of this “exclusive” group of student binge drinkers, as Brown called it, fell in the lowest quartile of the freshman class.

“Is this what you want to achieve? I am betting that it isn’t, nor is it your parents’ expectation. All of this is not necessary,” he said. He went on to warn that binge drinking could “result in your removal from on-campus housing,” and that “for some, the consequences can be far worse.” He also said that “behavior leading to sexual harassment or assault cannot be tolerated at Boston University. Our community is based on the principles of individual responsibility, mutual respect, and trust.”

As an alternative to such dangerous campus behavior, he touted the University’s commitment to volunteering. “Some of you already have begun to do this by attending FYSOP—the First-Year Student Outreach Project. Last week 905 of you spent 4 days at 225 sites performing more than 27,500 hours of community service,” he said, and asked them to stand for a round of applause.

Brown noted that last year alone, students working through BU’s Community Service Center logged 175,000 hours of community service.

“Traditionally, at Commencement, I charge our graduating class to go out into the world and make it a better place for all mankind,” he said. “I would like you, the entering freshman class—our graduating class for 2019—to think about what this assignment means to you. Raise your sights at Boston University. Ensure that your education here prepares you for that moment on Nickerson Field and for a life of living up to this charge.”

With that, Jean Morrison, provost and chief academic officer, called forth the deans of each school and college to present their freshmen, who remained standing for the formal Matriculation ceremony. As each group was announced, members responded with competitive cheers. The College of Arts & Sciences, with the largest number of freshmen, was the loudest overall, but the College of Engineering students, chanting “E! N! G!” showed the most enthusiasm.

Joel Brown, writer, BU Today at Boston University
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

2 Comments on BU Matriculation Ceremony Welcomes Class of 2019

  • Joan Mitchell on 08.31.2015 at 2:53 am

    We live overseas so we could not attend matriculation. We tried viewing the march, but our internet connection is poor. Your words are the only glimpse of the day we had. Thank you very much for the detailed synopsis;what a beautiful way to begin the year as a Terrier! Our son had a fantastic time, and we are proud to say he was part of the “enthousiastic E!N!G!” group. Good luck to all, especially Class of 2019. Go Terriers!

  • Sunil & Prabha on 09.02.2015 at 11:19 am

    We Love BU. It is always inspiring to attend BU Matriculation, Graduation, or even visit the campus any time of the year. President Brown’s comments are reflected in every facet of BU, specially the changes parents find or observe in their daughters / sons as they progress from Matriculation to Graduation.

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