Controversy Over Convocation
By Hannah Lazarus
Any Dawson student who has been on their Omnivox homepage recently has seen a notice that reads, “Any additional student fees (Non-Quebec residency fees, Foreign Student fees, convocation fees $17 etc.) that may have be applicable to your account has now been generated”. Of these fees, the one that has stirred up quite the controversy within the student-body is the one obligatory for all possible graduates: the convocation fee.
Second-year Psychology student, Jenna Miniello, explains how she was not aware that she had been charged $17 until her mother had seen the payment made on her account. “My mom had asked me what the $17 payment was, wondering if I had an overdue book at the library, to which I replied I didn’t. A couple of days later, she was on her laptop and found in a small description that this money was for my convocation. Despite the fact that I was not planning on actually attending convocation, they still charged the fee as well as anyone else who’s supposed to graduate”.
Dawson’s Communications Coordinator Donna Varrica clarifies the school’s reasoning in regards to student convocation payments: “The philosophy shared by many universities and colleges in North America is that the ceremony is for everyone who is graduating. In other words, the whole graduating class supports the ceremony. Some schools charge only the students attending a fee of anywhere between $75 and $150 per graduate.”
Nevertheless, although there are over 3,000 students in the graduating class, there are only around 650 students who attend the ceremony. While this may seem like a small number of attendees, Dawson recently required two ceremonies on the same day for the past few years due to the high turnout.
Varrica explains that the increase in students is the reason why the cost has fluctuated over the years: “The fee was $5 per graduating student in their graduating semester for more than 20 years. It was raised to $10 in 2007, and had to be raised again last year to take in the double ceremony costs due to the much higher number of students attending. From 2002 to 2012, the ceremony averaged 320 to 370 graduates. The numbers have ballooned to 650 since then. We prefer not to have a 4-hour ceremony in a bigger hall to accommodate all the graduates and their families and guests.”
While many students are upset about being forced to pay a $17 fee, they are most frustrated about being unaware of what a Dawson convocation entails.
According to Varrica, “It’s based on the British traditions practiced at Oxford and Cambridge, processional of students and faculty, brass quintet playing classical music generally associated with such ceremonies. A Convocation speaker, the awarding of diplomas, a valedictorian, special recognition for some award recipients, a vin d’honneur at the end. In 2007, we introduced blue graduation gowns.”
Although not all students choose to attend convocation, Jasmine Saim, a Dawson graduate from the Child Studies Profile in the spring of 2018, highly encourages students to partake in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Overall, my experience of going to convocation was absolutely worth it and heart-warming. I went in thinking it would be boring but it was incredibly lively. It was official, yet left a place for humour and humanity. I strongly recommend that students go. It’s the time to truly feel proud of all your hard work... Also, who knows, you might even win an award!”