You Can’t Yell “You Did it Baby” at a Crowded Commencement (?)

It is an occupational hazard that I have been to far more commencement ceremonies than most people could ever dream of (or have nightmares about) attending.   At every one I have attended it has been asked of the audience that they hold their applause.  At every one I have attended, this request is ignored by some members of the audience.

I have long thought the following:

1)  Yes, it would be nice if everyone could keep politely quiet and let everyone hear the names as they are announced.  (There is one sorority that has some high-pitched cheer/noise they make whenever one of their sisters crosses the stage that I could live without, for example).


2)  It is an emotional, special day that may make it hard for some folks to contain themselves, so let people celebrate. (And for the most part, the exuberance in question is not really all the disruptive).

This is all context setting so that I can note how ridiculous this is:  Family served arrest warrants for ‘disturbing the peace’ at graduation

Four people who cheered — allegedly excessively — for their loved ones at a high school graduation ceremony in Senatobia, Mississippi, say they’ve now been slapped with an excessive punishment.

Two weeks after watching her niece walk across the stage at Senatobia High School’s graduation ceremony on May 21, Ursula Miller received a warrant for her arrest for disturbing the peace.

"I just called her name out. ‘Lakaydra,’ Just like that," Miller told CNN affiliate WREG.

Now, Miller said, she has to appear in court or could face at least a $500 fine.

Henry Walker waved a towel and yelled, "You did it baby," to his sister as he walked out of the ceremony. He is another one of the four who also received the warrant.

"It’s crazy," Walker told WREG. "The fact that I might have to bond out of jail, pay court costs … for expressing my love — it’s ridiculous, man."

Yes, it is.

Although I will say:  if we can collect $500 from every person at a graduation ceremony who yells out someone’s name or the equivalent of “you did it baby” them we might not have a deficit.

If people are truly disruptive at such an event, pause and have security remove them.  However, if you have to wait weeks to impose a fine, then I am guessing they weren’t really all that disruptive on the day in question.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    Before even clicking on the link, anyone care to wager what race were the four people who were served ridiculous arrest warrants on trumped up charges?

  2. @Neil Hudelson: There is a racial angle to the story, yes (that I decided to leave aside and wondered how long before it came up in the comments!).

  3. Franklin says:

    I think most of us can agree that the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime here. But the real crime is graduation ceremonies in the first place.

  4. @Franklin: They are tortuous, to be sure.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I’m doubtful they were specifically targeted for punishment because of their race, but I am just as doubtful that the extreme charges would’ve occurred with a white family.

  6. @Neil Hudelson: It is not helpful that the Superintendent who is insisting on the charges is white and the family in question is black.

    Also: my anecdotal experience is that African-American families tend to be more exuberant, which could exacerbate the racial dimension of the story.

  7. Tyrell says:

    I went to a graduation a few years ago – kind of boisterous compared to when I graduated. The dress code has changed somewhat also. These sort of events, weddings, funerals, graduations, anniversaries, and recitals, have changed a lot in terms of behavior and dress. You would be hard put to tell some of these events apart from a ball game. As far as consequences, I am not sure what they could come up with. No sense arresting people.
    Things are so different now. I remember a time when shirts and ties were common at baseball games ! A few years ago I was at a funeral and looked around to see a woman talking on a cell phone ! At the movie theater there is always that announcement to turn off cell phones. Yet, invariably, some nut doesn’t do that.
    There is a lesson in all this somewhere.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    It is just not that it is rude but it makes a very long ceremony just go longer. Either the person reading the names just keeps up the reading while being drowned out by those yelling or they pause for a short while to allow the yelling to stop and makes the ceremony drag.

  9. inhumans99 says:


    Fair enough…but jail time for disrupting the ceremony? I think that conservatives and liberals can agree that is a punishment that does not fit the crime (or I could have just said…what Franklin posted).

  10. @Tyrell:

    I remember a time when shirts and ties were common at baseball games !

    I never had understood that (save that it obviously was social convention at the time).

    I do know that when I was a young kid going to MLB games in the late 70s in Texas no one was wearing a tie!

  11. Neil Hudelson says:


    A few years ago I was at a funeral and looked around to see a woman talking on a cell phone !

    I don’t think that has anything to do with social conventions–I think that woman was just being a jerk!

  12. John Peabody says:

    Venues make a difference. If you are in a sports arena, decorum is hard to control. If you are in an auditorium, less noise would occur. But larger schools (due to consolidation) (to save money) have meant larger classes and larger audiences. Life is different than it was 40 years ago, everyone has to deal.

  13. ElizaJane says:

    In my experience the most “inappropriate” cheers at our college graduations come from first-generation families, cheering on their first member to receive a college degree. I think that’s something worth cheering about. I would never begrudge them their boisterous happiness.

  14. @ElizaJane: this is my theory as well and I concur.

  15. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I do know that when I was a young kid going to MLB games in the late 70s in Texas no one was wearing a tie!”

    Yes, but you are talking about the 1970s.

  16. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Things don’t change…

    It don’t bode well to be uppity in Mississippi.

  17. Tyrell says:

    Thanks for the baseball game comments. As I remember, these were usually Sunday afternoon games and a lot of people came from church. I can still remember the hot dogs and Crackerjacks – 25¢ ! Soft drinks were in glass bottles. The park was small and mainly wood. Few like that around today.
    A few weeks ago I went to a school chorus program. Many in the audience wore shorts, t shirts, and flip flops.
    “Life is different than it was 40 years ago” You can say that again.

  18. Franklin says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: And yes, you have my condolences for the number of graduation ceremonies you attend.

  19. ernieyeball says:

    “Life is different than it was 40 years ago”

    Forty years ago I was living in the Sunset District of San Francisco. On Sundays it was a short block walk to Golden Gate Park to hear Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead jam for free.
    Nobody came from church. Nobody wore ties either. In fact some folks were naked!

  20. Boyd says:

    I am of the “less expressive” ilk, and I get annoyed at the families and friends who make spectacles of themselves and the graduate when they express these (to me) inappropriate, loud and attention-grabbing displays.

    On the other hand, I’ve never once thought that they should be arrested for their behavior.

  21. Heisenberg says:

    @Boyd: I get annoyed by people who are quiet and bring down the mood during times of great celebration and triumph with their spinster librarian glares. If you wanna be a robot, it’s a free country I guess, but humans express emotions and cheer.

    Quiet people bug me. A lot. Haven’t you ever noticed that when somebody’s a serial killer, “they were always so quiet?”

    Just sayin.

  22. Boyd says:

    @Heisenberg: Yes, you should never pass up the opportunity to insult a political opponent when they agree with your own position on a topic.

  23. James Joyner says:

    I was always more annoyed by these displays than you were. Even though I was first-generation college, much less first-generation PhD, it would never have occurred to my parents that hooting and hollering was appropriate behavior. But, no, it shouldn’t lead to encounters with law enforcement officers, either.

  24. TheoNott says:

    People who insist on making noise at these events tick me off a bit, but then I come from a family with a long history of college completion, so maybe it feels different if the person walking across the stage is the first one in your family tree to do so. Anyway, some mildly disruptive hollering isn’t a big enough deal to warrant getting the justice system involved. At my younger sisters high school graduation, just last year, I remember seeing a statement in the program brochure to the effect that noisemakers would be forcibly removed and possibly prosecuted. Well, at least they warn you.

  25. Heisenberg says:

    @Boyd: So you can express your annoyance at other people’s behavior, that’s cool, but when they express annoyance at your behavior, it’s not cool?

    Pretty sweet gig, brah.