On Campus

Getting the ring

“Marrying” your alma mater and what's behind our post-grad pride

I barely acknowledged graduation season at Canadian universities last school year (though some are still on their way in September, so I’ll hold my breath) — besides the annoyance of more people it took to sift through on my way to Tim Horton’s at Carleton — but it still got me thinking about something that’s always puzzled and amused me:

The class ring.

From what I can gather, almost every university in Canada has a thick, gaudy (some more than others), gold ring that you can pay more than your two weeks salary for to don after completing your program of study. But after a bit of research, the whole ordeal of purchasing and attending the ceremony seems more like a long term commitment then a piece of jewelry you may never wear in five years.

“Do you take this university to be your alma mater, to have and to cherish, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer (let’s hope so after four years of education), for poorer, in recession and collapsing job market, until death do you part?”

Though it may seem ridiculous to those even inside the academic circle, most schools take their gold bands very seriously.

Perhaps the most extreme is St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., who’s reputation largely stems from their coveted “X-Ring.”

The iconic band, with large black ‘X’ set in a large gold square, has its own special spot on the StFX website complete with heart-melting alumni stories and a lost and found.

In order to attend the ring ceremony in black-robed attire and finally pump their X-Ring-graced fist into the air at graduation (there’s not a whole lot else to celebrate in Antigonish, I imagine), Xaverian’s (StFX folk) must fulfill a list of seven comprehensive criteria upon ordering.

According to local Antigonish retailer, Cameron’s Jewellers, the 10-karat ring starts at over $500.

So what’s the hoopla all about? Xaverians gather on the same day every year — December 3rd — to celebrate what legend has it is as the third most popular ring in the world (after the papal and Super Bowl variety).

On the other side of the country at the University of British Columbia, the same quality of ring (of much less fame) will run students between $450-$550.

Xaverian’s claim that when they meet another Xaverian on their worldly travels, they are instantly recognized by the ring on their finger. While this may be true, even for other less iconic class rings, what’s the big deal?

Perhaps it’s the feeling of being drawn together by a common fact that along with thousands before and thousands to come you’ve survived two to four years (or more, for the stragglers) of university and you belong to an elite class of academics.

The same may be true for other school merchandise, however — faculty-specific sweaters, mugs, key chains, caps — you name it, your school makes it possible for you to completely brand yourself with (insert university name here) stuff.

The result? Congratulations! You’ve been hitched to your alma mater. And you’re paying them to advertise it.

I hope the honeymoon in adulthood entails a half-decent job.

– photo by Casey J.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.