Everyone congratulate Shawna Scott, the president of the Windsor-Essex County Atheist Society at the University of Windsor (in Ontario, Canada).
She (along with her group) led the charge to remove prayers from the school’s convocation ceremonies and the school recently issued a press release agreeing to change the tradition and have a moment of silence instead:
The institution of a moment of reflection to replace prayer during University of Windsor Convocation ceremonies will create a more inclusive atmosphere, says Kaye Johnson, director of the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility.
“We operate to make things as inclusive as possible — widening the circle,” she says. “A moment of silent reflection will allow people to use this time as they need to, not as someone else decides.”
Shawna Scott, a psychology student who will receive her master’s degree during the October 13 Fall Convocation, welcomes the secular approach. President of the Windsor-Essex County Atheist Society, a ratified student club, she had petitioned the University this summer to adopt a moment of personal reflection.
“We are ecstatic that the university has made this change so that convocation is more inclusive of all students, both religious and nonreligious,” says Scott. “All students go through a lot of hard work to graduate. No student should be excluded from any part of convocation.”
That’s a wonderful change considering what has happened in the past:
In the fall convocation of 2011, Rev. Mary Templer of the University Community Church led the audience in a prayer that described God as “the source of all goodness, discipline and knowledge.”
“We pray you to bless this assembly, gather to recognize achievement, and celebrate life. Bless this and all universities in their quest for excellence. Be with teachers and students everywhere,” Templer recited, finishing with the traditional “Amen.”
Good riddance. Give the students the credit they deserve instead of giving God credit he never earned.
The next convocation is this coming Saturday. No one will be forced to pray to God against their own wishes, but anyone who wants to do it will have that option.
On Facebook, Scott issued this statement on behalf of the group:
The student members of the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society and I would like to express our gratitude for this affirmation of the principles of diversity and tolerance. This shows plainly the commitment the University of Windsor makes to cultivating the virtue, discipline and knowledge of its students. When students are allowed to worship with their conscience, we all benefit. Special thanks to Kaye Johnson and others who advocated for this change. We would like to thank the author of the introduction to the moment of silence for composing a truly beautiful and meaningful statement. It will serve as a wonderful garland to the ceremony, enriching it for everyone.
It can be difficult to engage in re-evaluating and changing long-standing traditions, but it is clearer than ever that this commitment to diversity from the university administration will bring about a wonderful addition to an already meaningful ceremony. With our ever-changing, diverse student population, it is imperative that the University of Windsor continue its dedication to celebrating diversity.
The moment of reflection is inclusive of everyone. During the moment of reflection, people can make their own decision as to whether they want to pray, reflect, think about people who helped them along the way, and/or remember their experiences at the University of Windsor. This allows the students to examine the many factors that have helped them in their achievement and consider them in what is a very personal and very meaningful way.
I personally am glad that I will be able to stand with pride and say with all my fellow students, “Yes! I went to Windsor!” I look forward to attending convocation, where we may all join together in honouring the years of hard work that have brought us together. What will I do during the moment of reflection? I will think about the wonderful professors, teaching assistants, and university staff who helped me along the way. I will think about my family. I will think about my classmates and friends. I will think about the University of Windsor, which has been my home since 2007. I am looking forward to the next four years of my educational experience at the University of Windsor.
Shawna Scott and the 170+ members of the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society.