Gong: Memories and Graduation Merchandise


Speaking of graduation packages, their forms are also presented in a way that seems purposefully misleading.

Victoria Gong, Managing Editor

On Oct. 1, the Mississippi School for Math and Science’s esteemed graduating class was summoned by mass email reminder to Hooper Auditorium to mandatorily give their attention to a Balfour representative, who introduced an array of graduation merchandise to us with phrases like, “Seniors, y’all deserve the best graduation announcements for making it through MSMS” and “Your parents are gonna love this stuff.”

“Seniors, seniors, look at me,” Mr. Balfour representative said, pointing to his entirely serious eyes, as he flourished T-shirts and thermoses from a cardboard box, traveling salesman-style. For a moment, I think, everyone in the room was mesmerized by him, his commanding voice, his ego-inflating compliments, his conviction that all of us were going to buy at least the “MSMS package” of graduation merchandise.

By the time Mr. Balfour representative told us, “Seniors, thank you for your attention. Go home, tell your parents, give ‘em the forms,” I was laughing at the unfettered seriousness in his eyes, and my patience had been completely worn thin by his glib catchphrases.

I don’t have a problem with the school partnering with Balfour to give us the option of buying overpriced merchandise embellished with “2019 Seniors” as a way of remembering high school, the people we met during it, and the experiences we had with them. However, if the whole point of intensely urging us to purchase graduation merch is for memories’ sake, then we have photos on our phone that should suffice, communication is better and quicker than ever in the form of instant text messages and video calls, we can always come back to visit and attend reunions, and there have inevitably been keepsakes that have popped up in our friend groups over the couple years, such as charm bracelets, polaroids, etc. that are more evocative than a stock T-shirt.

My problem is the way we were introduced to the option of buying this merchandise. Everything made our purchase of fancy paper bearing graduation announcements in gold cursive, Comfort Color shirts, and color-changing cups seem mandatory, from the our “mandatory” attendance indicated in the emails to the Balfour representative’s demeanor. And I was especially by the way Mr. Balfour’s advertising made it seem like he was doing us and our families (in particular, our parents) a huge favor by offering these graduation packages.

Speaking of graduation packages, their forms are also presented in a way that seems purposefully misleading. The “MSMS Graduation Package” subtracts an $80 deposit from the total amount you have to pay, which, at a glance, makes the total seem much less than the whole package actually costs.

Additionally, many of my classmates come from low income backgrounds, and paying a couple hundred for essentially useless merchandise won’t help their financial situation, especially if they feel pressured by the Balfour representative saying, “Everyone in the past loved this mug so much that we brought it back, so you can buy it this year.”

Well, no thank you. I think we should be able to say that to the merch and the meeting.