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Schools asking graduates not to take selfies

By Matt Sedensky

Associated Press


TAMPA, Fla. >> Toss your cap. Turn your tassel. Just don't snap that selfie.

Graduates at the University of South Florida and Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., have been asked to refrain from taking self-portraits with their cell phones as they collect their diplomas. The seemingly simple directive is standing out for placing the slightest curtailment on a collective societal march toward sharing every waking moment on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the like.

Kyra Ciotti, a 22-year-old mass communication major at USF, has taken selfies lying in bed, riding in a car, posing with her dog, taking a shot of tequila and whenever she feels her hair is having a particularly good day. She had planned to keep her arm extended as she walked across the stage at a ceremony Friday, capturing the moment for a sister in Australia.

Now, chastened by the university's admonition that it's improper and fearful of a threat to withhold diplomas, she'll keep her phone away.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," she said as she posed on campus in her cap and gown for some early graduation pictures. "But I don't want to be disrespectful."

For others, the simple act of outlawing selfies may have sparked the desire for one.

Anthony Sanchez, a 22-year-old microbiology major at USF, said he's only taken a few selfies in his life. But he's not ruling out another at this weekend's ceremony.

"It put the idea in my head," he said. "I wouldn't have thought of it until they said don't do it."

Self-portraits have been around since the early days of photography, but it was the growth of cellphone cameras that made them into a pop cultural phenomenon. A selfie host Ellen DeGeneres took at the Oscars this year became the most retweeted item in history, but the snapshots have become so widespread that they've been taken by everyone from President Barack Obama (who was criticized for one with other world leaders at the funeral of Nelson Mandela) to Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide (who took an other-worldly shot outside the International Space Station.) Selfie was even declared the 2013 word of the year by Oxford University Press.

Administrators at both USF and Bryant said their intentions were far less dramatic than making a statement about a generation often accused of oversharing. They said they were simply trying to keep already long ceremonies from dragging on even longer.

"It's your moment in the sun right next to everyone else's moment in the sun," said Michael Freeman, the USF dean of students who issued the guidelines saying selfies were banned along with marching, strolling and other fanciful methods of accepting a diploma. Freeman said a handful of graduates took on-stage selfies during the December commencement and he has noticed students growing more and more cavalier as they approach the university president. Aside from keeping the ceremony on time, he wanted to maintain decorum.

"I don't have an anti-selfie bent," he said. "I would just caution students to think there's a time and place."

Neither USF nor Bryant has issued a blanket ban on selfies. Students are free to take them throughout the ceremony, just not on stage.

Sheila Guay, the special events director at Bryant, said selfies would take away from the ceremony and ruin photos that family members try to capture.

She echoed Freeman, saying: "There is a time and place for them, and here is not one of them."

Most schools have taken no stance on the selfie craze, but some are staking a position opposite to USF and Bryant.

At Ripon College in Ripon, Wis., all of this year's graduation festivities are built around a theme of new media. The school is circulating a hashtag they're encouraging students to use to tweet throughout the celebrations. They're setting up a selfie booth with props, but also have no problem if students take one on stage, too.

"The college will not limit that kind of self-expression," said Melissa Anderson, the school's executive director of marketing and communications. "As a point of pride, we hope students take a lot of selfies."

Similarly, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is also eager to see its graduates' selfies. Kelly Bennett, the school's social media coordinator, said Miami would share students' selfies on Twitter and Instagram. She said graduates were just exhibiting their excitement and that other colleges should embrace it.

"I've never seen it disruptive," she said. "I think when you make a big deal out of it, then most people want to push the line."

Whether students will push the line remains to be seen. USF's warning that it might keep violators' diplomas has gotten the attention of many seniors on campus, but Freeman, the dean, had a confession.

"Between you, me and the wall, that's basically an empty threat," he said.


Associated Press writer Paige Sutherland in Boston contributed to this report.

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lowtone123 wrote:
Some will. They can't help it. They are so into themselves.
on May 2,2014 | 07:35AM
jmarie wrote:
All the school did was to ask you not to do it. You earned it and paid for it and there are no longer any consequences for bad behavior in this country. Just do it, what are they going to do!
on May 2,2014 | 07:37AM
4watitsworth wrote:
Bad attitude!
on May 2,2014 | 09:54AM
jmarie wrote:
It's not bad attitude it's called leverage, what can the school do to a graduate who made a choice to take a selfie, a big fat "NOTHING". I mean come on the President of the United States can lie with immunity from any consequences, it's the normal don't ask for permission just do it! Who's john Galt.
on May 2,2014 | 03:53PM
BuhByeAloha wrote:
Respect what the school is trying to do.
on May 2,2014 | 10:26AM
jmarie wrote:
The days of showing respect is gone in this country, the students did their part in studying hard and paying high tuition. Do what you want no consequences as the school has no leverage in the situation.
on May 3,2014 | 08:13AM
juscasting wrote:
As a deterrent, "school officials have had dozens of angry squirrels imported as preventive measures!"
on May 2,2014 | 12:01PM
iwanaknow wrote:
It's all those cell phone companies fault!
on May 2,2014 | 12:10PM
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