Graduation, Italian style

Walking around Padua (Padova in Italian) last week, Ali and I happened across the graduation celebrations of a few university students. The first indication that something was up this day were the big signs plastered up along one side of a piazza. These each displayed a crude caricature of one of the graduates, along with a long and detailed narrative written by the grad’s so-called friends. 

A little farther ahead we saw some of the actual graduates, each surrounded by a small crowd which would occasionally break out into song: “Dottore, dottore, dottore del buso del cul! Vaffancul, vaffancul…” I believe the lyrics touch on how proud they all are of the graduate for all his or her hard work and academic achievement. Yeah, that’s it.

Each scene was a little different, but mostly they looked like this: the graduate, wearing some ridiculous costume prepared by her admirers (a giant diaper, a hula skirt, a funny hat) stood on top of a bench which someone had thoughtfully covered with plastic sheeting. The grad would occasionally take sips from a bottle of cheap champaign, which may or may not be duct-taped to her hand. Every couple minutes, someone from the crowd would approach the grad and apply some variety of food substance (ketchup, raw egg, unrecognizable goo) to some part of said grad’s body. The grad’s mother stood somewhere in the crowd, holding the traditional wreath of laurels and beaming proudly.

There were of course many variations on this scene, such as the grad who had his feet tied together and was being made to hop through the streets while his blow-up-doll-toting, cross-dressed posse beat him repeatedly with inflatable bats. But the overarching theme was clear: public humiliation.

I really liked the idea of hazing someone at the end of his educational career, rather than at the beginning as it’s traditionally done in the US (as is my understanding from watching movies such as Animal House). It seems less, what’s the word… evil. Even the grads seemed to be enjoying themselves, as if it were clearly a privilege to have an egg stuffed into and broken inside one’s giant paper-towel diaper while standing on a bench in the middle of town.

But I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to those grads who didn’t have many friends. Who humiliates them on their graduation day?

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