The University of Saskatchewan is not a religious institution, so isn’t it a bit odd that guests and graduates at convocation ceremonies are forced to sit through a prayer?
Convocation is relatively boring in and of itself. Prior to each ceremony, graduates gather backstage, some dressed up while others arrive in jeans and sneakers to receive their $25,000 piece of paper.
Graduates march into the auditorium and struggle to locate their family members amid a sea of proud grandparents, waving mothers and bitter siblings who’ve been dragged along for the day’s events.
While graduates expect the regular speeches given by the university President, and a random assortment of professors, nothing prepares the black-robed graduates for the odd — and seemingly unnecessary — address to come.
I believe the girl beside me whispered “what the fuck?” as the prayer began.
Like many oblivious babies, I was baptized as a child. My parents weren’t overly religious, but my Ukrainian Catholic grandparents were — hence why I was dunked in a pool of water and dressed in a fancy white gown for all of my nearest and dearest to see. I’ve since discovered that gowns really aren’t my thing.
My sister and I attended Sunday school as children and learned about the Bible, but as we got older church life became a thing of the past.
Needless to say, I’m not exactly a religious person. But I’m not trying to belittle those who are. I can see the validity in religious faiths of all kinds.
But I still think it’s absolutely ridiculous that graduates are forced to sit through a prayer before convocating — especially when considering the multiculturalism at the University of Saskatchewan.
We do, after all, have a Jewish president at the U of S. I could be mistaken, but the prayer felt pretty damn Christian to me.
When the university was established in 1907, religion was more relevant to society than it is now, which is why prayers were included at convocation ceremonies in the first place. But times have changed, and convocation ceremonies need to change as well.
Christianity is not the be all and end all of the western world. We can choose what religious faith we want to adhere to — if we choose any faith at all.
Having to pray before convocating was a reminder to me that this institution upholds old-fashioned values that are not inclusive of or considerate to the beliefs of others.
The motivation and sentiment for the prayer itself is valid: to acknowledge those in our lives who have made our accomplishments attainable — whether they are physical beings or metaphysical ones. But I’m quite sure we all don’t need to pray to be appreciative.
The ceremony could include a speech of thanks to family members or other important people, as opposed to a prayer.
If any kind of religiousness is going to take place at the convocation ceremonies, all faiths should be represented and acknowledged.
Besides, God didn’t write our essays or study for our exams. We did those things. We as students do the hard work. If individual students gain guidance from higher powers, that’s awesome, but this isn’t the case for everyone.
Religion can have an amazing impact on a person’s life, but there are certainly those who function without it.
I don’t want to think about Jesus when I’m receiving my degree. However, I would reconsider my distaste for praying at convocation if God or Jesus or whomever decided to pay for my education.
That would be something to be thankful for.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor