Where, oh, where, did diversity go?

By Editorial

After four or more years of mind expansion, of attempting to view the world through different eyes, University of Calgary graduates face convocation ceremonies rife with the very things they’ve been taught to challenge. It starts with the Christian blessing and snowballs as it becomes obvious that the stereotyped Western world is over-represented.

First, many brush off the Christian blessing as tradition, but why accept it when so many other faiths and individuals without religious leanings are represented among the graduating class? The inaugural Christian blessing is archaic in our modern society, even in traditional form.

Second, the list of Honourary Degree and Order of the U of C recipients reads like a who’s who in a ’50s movie. Women and men are almost equally represented (five women, seven men), but the men outnumber the women by a ratio of three to one for the Honourary Doctor of Laws degrees, while women outnumber the men three to one for the seemingly less important Order of the U of C award. Plus, all 12 recipients are white. Not only do the demographics of this group appear elitist, they do very little to emphasize the diversity and advancements of the many groups at this university. As well, they cling to dominant stereotypes.

For example, the lone male receiving the Order of the U of C award "helped this institution survive and grow while facing a period of severe budget cuts." He is also a well-to-do businessman and a former member of the U of C Board of Governors. Flip the gender coin and you find two female recipients who did such wonderful things as revolutionizing university daycare and specializing in early childhood education, and one whose "dependability" saw the U of C through a bunch of boring administrative events. It would not be right to belittle these women’s achievements, but it does seem like the university can’t drum up one person with a more non-traditional background to challenge female stereotypes. However, to their credit, Dr. Ethel King-Shaw became the first female full professor at the U of C in 1967.

Further, the Honourary Doctor of Laws recipients reinforce the image of the public male. This male group includes two career military men (a cliché in the who’s who of award-worthy individuals), a legendary cable guy (J.R. Shaw), an

American Civil War specialist (we are in Canada, right?), a political scientist who also chaired the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission, and the man responsible for bringing us the Museum of Civilization. The women consist of a dancer (quite the opposite of the business, academic and military dominated men’s group) and, amazingly (or luckily), a petroleum geologist.

In review, the convocation ceremonies show that talking and studying about societal change does not necessarily make it so. Tradition leaves its insidious marks on individuals earmarked to make changes in the future. If anything, the structure and content of these U of C convocation ceremonies actually oppose the path to change taught at the university level today.

Leave a comment