Dalhousie’s law school advertises itself as a “national” law school. It indeed has achieved that goal by attracting a student population that is well over half from outside the Maritime Provinces. A sizeable portion of this year’s graduating class comes all the way from the West Coast and the Province of British Columbia. Unfortunately for those students, the University has deliberately set a convocation date that British Columbians cannot attend, and which also causes some difficulties for students planning on practicing in Ontario. The reason these students can’t attend is that the requirements for each provinces’ respective bar society, conflicts with the convocation dates. For those from BC, convocation is on the exact same day the bar required course begins, Monday May 28th. This leaves students with the “choice” of reneging on their professional responsibilities or losing out on the last chance to celebrate with their soon to be colleagues, whom they have spent the last 3 years with.
This is not the first time Dalhousie University has prevented students from attending convocation. The graduating class of 2015 was given May 22nd as their convocation date. The registrar’s office later changed that date to the end of May which brought about the same problem as this year: BC and Ontario students were left out.
The reason for this change?
Dalhousie’s administration decided to condense all convocation ceremonies into one week. Essentially, the university is trying to cut costs. Without any consideration for the students, the University decided to pick a date that was “convenient for them.” Missing the most important part of convocation: the students.
For the graduating class of 2017 the University thankfully made a decision to have the professional schools ceremony on the Friday before the rest of the convocation ceremonies. Despite making the conscious decision to make convocation accessible last year, the University has now reneged on their responsibilities and once again brought us back to the same situation the students faced in 2015.
The main reason cited for not being able to keep convocation on the Friday: programs and medals. The registrar’s office has said that it was difficult to have the programs printed and the medals engraved 2 days earlier and so they didn’t want to do that again this year. Despite the fact that most students would likely be okay without physical programs in their hands if it meant going to grad at all…
Ultimately, there have been lots of half-baked excuses and very little positive work being done thus far. The administrative powers of the university don’t feel like dealing with this issue and continue to ignore any efforts to discuss changing the date or at the very least changing the policies on choosing the date. Essentially they are attempting a delay tactic so that at one point they can actually say it is too late to change the date. This results in students from certain provinces being given differential treatment: we don’t get a chance to celebrate with our colleagues because we chose to practice in our home province. If Dalhousie University is going to continue to draw students from all provinces, then they should treat all of these students equally when making these decisions.
The struggle over changing this year’s convocation date isn’t over yet. There is a petition in the works and continued attempts to get through to administration. Regardless of what happens this year, those in first and second year should keep this though in mind and continue to hound the law school and Dalhousie’s administration to ensure this issue is, at the very least, fixed for future generations.