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Class of 2021 Matriculates at BU

“Discern the difference between real and fake news,” Brown urges new students


Cool temperatures and a steady drizzle couldn’t dampen the spirit inside Agganis Arena as freshmen and their parents gathered for the Class of 2021 Matriculation ceremony Sunday afternoon.

In a departure from years past, two processions of students marched to Agganis Arena, many sporting ponchos. Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), associate provost and dean of students, led freshmen from Kilachand Hall, the Bay State Road brownstones, the Towers, and Warren Towers and freshmen commuters up Commonwealth Avenue as the BU Band played. For the first time, a separate procession of West Campus students gathered on West Campus plaza and proceeded past Sleeper Hall to Babcock Street and down Comm Ave, meeting up with their classmates on Buick Street before entering Agganis.

First up was SaraAnn Kurkul (CGS’16, COM’18), president of the BU Student Government, who welcomed the Class of 2021’s 3,490 members. “Get your money’s worth and be active,” she advised the freshmen. She then asked them to take out their phones and exchange emails with the person sitting next to them. “Email that person next to you in a few days and meet up for coffee…reach beyond the boundaries you make for yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.”

Faculty speaker Victor Coelho, a College of Fine Arts professor of music and chair of the musicology and ethnomusicology department, told the audience of offering to buy the graduate students in his department a Keurig coffee machine to replace the “sludge” drip coffee they usually drank. They decided to stick with the drip coffee because the Keurig pods cannot be recycled. “They chose environmental concerns over convenience,” Coelho said, impressed by the ethical lesson his students taught him. I’ve been a musician for 50 years, but I’m still learning from my students…. Teach us, we can’t wait.”

The Class of 2021 joins BU at a significant time of change, University President Robert A. Brown said during his speech. “It seems all around the world we are losing the capacity to talk through struggles,” said Brown. “Some say globalism is dead or at least mortally wounded. I am betting, and I think many of you are too, that these trends will moderate and reverse. That the world you will live in will be one where your opinion will matter and that your values and choices you make to realize those values will be part of the fabric of society. You will have an important role in shaping the world…you will shape policies, and each policy will have consequences for all of us.”

He urged the entering freshmen to embrace BU’s diverse population by making friends with classmates from other parts of the country and different nations, from other races and religions and political beliefs, and with different majors. “I hope you will socialize with, discuss the world with, and even argue with people who don’t look like you, and who don’t share your customs, or perhaps, your worldview,” he said. “I hope when you disagree with others you will do this with the civility and respect for the views of others that is the necessary condition for free inquiry and for exercising freedom of speech in a way that is heard by others.”

Brown gave a brief overview of the University’s history, starting with its founding in 1869, its acceptance of women and African Americans at a time when few schools admitted either group, and its ongoing belief that students can combine a professional education (taught at the Questrom School of Business or the College of Communication, for instance) with liberal arts and science course work.

“Learn what is known, master methods of analysis, and learn to think critically about complex issues, so that you will know when an argument is evidence-based—discern the difference between real and fake news,” Brown said. “Participate effectively in political discussions with a full understanding of consequences and trade-offs.”

Incoming students of the Boston University class of 2021 react during the matriculation cermony at Agganis Arena

Agganis Arena was a sea of scarlet and white during the 2017 Matriculation. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

Next, he provided some campus updates, like the implementation of a University-wide general education program beginning in fall 2018, the renovation of Myles Standish Hall and Annex, the new Joan and Edgar Booth Theatre & Boston University Production Center, and the new Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering building.

Brown also spoke about the issues of sexual assault and binge drinking, topics he said he wished he didn’t need to address. “I ask you today to act responsibly,” he said. “Behavior leading to sexual harassment or assault will not be tolerated at Boston University.” And binge drinking, he warned, could lead to a student being “incapacitated where others might take advantage, or result in waking up in a pool of your own stomach contents, either in your bed, some unfamiliar place, or the emergency room.”

He then suggested some ways, beyond a house party in Allston, the entering class might spend their time. He said that during last week’s First Year Student Outreach Project, more than 700 new students came to campus early and performed over 10,000 hours of community service at 80 community partner organizations in and around Boston. And last year, he noted, students wrapped up more than a million hours of community service pledged as their contribution when the Campaign for Boston University launched in September 2012.

At Commencement, the president traditionally adjures the graduating class to make the world a better place for all mankind, and he told the 2021 freshman class to think about that undertaking. “Raise your sights at Boston University. Ensure that your college education prepares you for that moment on Nickerson Field and for a life of living up to this charge. Your time here is precious. Use it well. Good luck.”

Following Brown’s remarks, Jean Morrison, provost and chief academic officer, invited the deans of each school and college to present their freshmen for the formal Matriculation ceremony. The College of Arts & Sciences, with the largest group of freshmen, cheered the loudest. 

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

One Comment on Class of 2021 Matriculates at BU

  • Steve on 09.05.2017 at 7:25 am

    I would have also preferred the drip coffee maker over the keurig machine but for reasons completely unrelated to recycling. Cost and taste.

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