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USF to graduates: No more selfies

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Published Apr. 24, 2014

In the coming weeks, graduates of the University of South Florida will be able to frame their diplomas — but not selfies of their strut across the commencement stage.

USF notified graduating students and placed an ad in the student newspaper this week asking them to refrain from inappropriate behavior, which includes stepping, strolling, marching or taking selfies with USF president Judy Genshaft when crossing the stage for their diplomas.

The announcement allows for a simple handshake. A professional photo will be taken of each graduate on stage with Genshaft during the ceremony.

"We want students to think about the dignity of the ceremony," said Michael A. Freeman, USF assistant vice president and dean for students. "It's supposed to be exciting, but it's a serious academic ceremony."

He said discussion about how to curb unruly behavior began last May. Selfies, he said, are just one potential disruption.

Students with the urge to snap a quick cellphone picture with Genshaft could face disciplinary action and the withholding of their degree.

"The last thing I want to do on someone's graduation day — which is supposed to be one of the best days of your life — is enforce some policy with a penalty or consequences," Freeman said.

USF student body president Will Warmke saw about 15 students take selfies with Genshaft at last fall's graduation ceremonies.

"I feel bad for the person behind the person taking the selfies because now they have to wait for their moment," said Warmke, 23, who graduates May 2 with three bachelor's degrees, in political science, criminology and interdisciplinary social science.

"I would love to have a selfie with president Genshaft," he said, "but there's a time and place for taking photos with the president that wouldn't hinder the graduation process with other students."

USF joins other universities in efforts to keep a reverent atmosphere at graduation. The University of Florida asked its graduates to turn off cellphones and other electronics before walking across the stage. Last week, Bryant University in Rhode Island announced a ban on selfies at graduation.

A total of 6,431 degrees will be awarded in USF commencement ceremonies beginning May 2. Fortunately for graduates, tossing mortarboards at the end of graduation is still allowed.

Colleen Wright can be reached at cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow her on Twitter @Colleen_Wright.

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