You Can’t Spell GraDuatiOn Without GOD

At the University of Alberta, graduates are handed a diploma during a ceremony where the chancellor says the following:

“I charge you to use [the powers, rights, and privileges of University degrees] for the glory of God.” It’s commonly understood that the big-G “God” here is some variant of the monotheistic God (or the one Jews, Christians, and Muslims live in fear of).

Ian Bushfield, an atheist, attends that university and has the gall to want his beliefs to be respected and included in his graduation ceremony.

Elitist.

He writes:

After discovering this issue, the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics (UAAA) drafted a letter which was sent to the President’s Office on 14 July. Hope for a quick move to inclusiveness was dashed when, nearly a month later, the UAAA received a brief response stating that office had discussed the issue earlier and decided against doing anything. After the the minutes of the meeting featuring this discussion were requested, the President’s office decided that this was an issue that required a FOIPP request.

It’s disappointing to hear that this University wishes to remain in its dark-aged roots, and that they couldn’t even provide a reason for their decision not to change the charge even with sizable opposition. In spite of relatively little awareness of this issue, a petition has recieved over a hundred signatures from students who are outraged by this break in secular values and the separation of church and state, and a comparable number of members in a Facebook group for the same purpose. However, their voices remain unacknowledged.

It shouldn’t be unreasonable for a group of students who pay upwards of $25 000 to get a degree to ask to be included in a celebration of their achievements. The President’s disregard for such legitimate concerns is abhorrent and intolerant, and I call for a secular convocation at the University of Alberta and an end to the denigration of the hard work of all students.

For a public institution, it seems paradoxical to bring a god into a ceremony celebrating, of all things, a world class education.

Maybe if the story gets enough publicity, the school might find this issue worthy of actual response or action.

  • http://kaveriyamuna.blogspot.com/ Sundaram

    Excuse me please…The big wigs at University of Alberta certainly and rightful to please the majority so as to maintain the ethics of their university…and they too know that the archangel and satan are not bothered with this issue at hand.

  • http://terahertzatheist.ca Ian

    Thanks Hemant! I’ll keep you posted as we progress.

  • http://imaginggeek.blogspot.com/ Bryan

    Yet another reason to stay away from convocation. Although I thought sitting around for 4 hours in silly robes, listening to a list of 2,000 names was reason enough…

    Also a reason to not go to the UofA, although having to live in Edmonton should be reason enough…

  • ubi dubius

    Is this a private school, or a government supported one? If the latter, what is Canada’s legal approach to separation of church and state at government schools?

  • llewelly

    You can’t spell gRAduaTion with out ‘rat’ either. Perhaps we should all pray to rodents on that auspicious day? Ratio is in there too. Maybe we should all pray for a sense of proportion. And maybe we should idolize a few MREs, since ‘ration’ is also in there.

  • llewelly

    Excuse me please…The big wigs at University of Alberta certainly and rightful to please the majority so as to maintain the ethics of their university…

    That’s right. Step on the rights of minorities in the name of popularity and ‘ethics’.

  • False Prophet

    Is this a private school, or a government supported one? If the latter, what is Canada’s legal approach to separation of church and state at government schools?

    U of A is publicly-funded. And the answer is ambiguous.

    Most of Canada’s older (pre-1960s) universities grew out of theological seminaries. My undergrad alma mater, McMaster, was originally a Baptist College, and still has a Christian motto.

    Generally, government at all levels in Canada likes to play up the myth that we’re a polite, tolerant society who all get along, and that there’s no need to rock the boat. People like to complain in Canada but few like to do anything, so the status quo tends to be king.

    Thus, I’m sure the perspective of most in authority would be “it’s just words on a piece of paper–let the university keep its tradition and let the student believe what he wants”. This lets them pass the buck for a bit longer.

    That said, being an Ontarian I don’t know much about how Alberta politics works in these cases, though it is a stronghold of the Conservative Party and we’re in the middle of a federal election campaign. Education is a provincial matter, though, so it’s not likely to be a campaign issue. Not with much bigger issues at stake.

  • http://www.terahertzatheist.ca Ian

    Is this a private school, or a government supported one? If the latter, what is Canada’s legal approach to separation of church and state at government schools?

    This is a publically-funded university. Although we don’t have the first ammendment (or an equivalent law) in Canada, legal precedents respecting “freedom of religion” (which we enshrine) support our case here.

  • Ryan Hill

    This is alberta we a talking about after all.
    Think of texas, but only in the north!

  • Amanda
  • http://imaginggeek.blogspot.com Bryan

    Ryan Hill said: This is alberta we a talking about after all.

    LOL, voice of the ignorent.

    I lived in Alberta for 28 years, and compared to northern Ontario, Alberta is positively secular. I live in downtown TO, and there are two religious-themed billboards in view of my balcony; I don’t remember seeing even one in Calgary. In Alberta those kinds of signs are for the hick towns.

    The whole god convocation thing seems to be a UofA thing, According to the article:

    The push towards secularism is also not without precendence. The University of Calgary’s admission is to grant degrees to those who have “earned” them and give them the “rights and privileges, powers, and responsibiliti pertaining to those degrees.”

    I graduated from the UofC many years ago; I don’t remember my convocation, so I don’t know if this is a new change or not. I do have my convocation it on tape…oh wait, no VHS.

  • http://www.ravingsofamadsceptic.blogspot.com Catherine

    I’m surprised to hear this about the U of A… and disappointed! I do remember running into a ton of apathy there, they hid behind a lot of bureaucracy and hierarchy, and I could never talk to the person I needed to talk to – but it isn’t all that different with any big institution or corporation. We just have to keep at them.

    On another note though, Bryan…
    “Also a reason to not go to the UofA, although having to live in Edmonton should be reason enough…”
    Hey hey hey now… I knew you’d lived in Edmonton when you said that – we do tend to have an inferiority complex about this place. But as your last post conveys, it’s really not that bad. Some of us still like it here! We just gotta keep fighting the good fight, wherever we are.

  • http://agersomnia.blogspot.com Agersomnia

    You can always move to Mexico, where people can have a Graduación without Dios ;-)

    The problem is most public universities do a special mass at church for the alumni where you’re free not-to but expected to go, and also a graduation ceremony (secular) and most times also a party. Three different events, and you can choose not to show up.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X