This week, along with hundreds of students I will be graduating in the class of 2018. I will not, however, be walking on stage during Convocation. Instead, after careful deliberation, I have decided to protest my convocation. This is why.
In my first semester of university, athletes on the Mount Allison football team dressed up as the Jamaican bobsled team, with some painted in blackface. A brief, 200-word apology appeared in the school newspaper. Yet the black students’ advocacy group (then called BSAAT) said it wasn’t enough. The administration did nothing more to address anti-blackness on campus.
Under the rug it went.
In my second semester of university, the CBC reported that Mt. A had the highest reported sexual assault rate among New Brunswick’s post-secondary institutions. In response, the administration sent a campus-wide email admonishing the CBC report saying that it was “misleading” and invalid. In making that statement, the administration further erased survivors and the sexual violence that happens on our campus and residences every single day.
In my second year, Mt. A attempted to raise tuition for correspondence courses, which are a necessary aspect of modern and accessible education. Soon after, they gutted funding to the Women’s and Gender Studies program – one of the most vibrant and popular programs on campus. Students and faculty protested against the administration’s lack of transparency and authoritarian-like processes. While we won our education back two years ago, it was quietly decided a few weeks ago that the administration would terminate correspondence offerings for upcoming years. Universities are becoming increasingly elitist and business-like, continuing to construct higher education as inaccessible for people from working-class and low-income backgrounds. As university president Robert Campbell said in an interview, students need to get over their “tuition-phobia.”
Under the rug it went.
In my third year, I witnessed the Mt. A president physically step on students peacefully occupying his office. Students have been pressuring the University to divest its investments in the fossil fuel industry for over five years. We are taught climate science and the urgency of climate change in our studies, so why is it morally acceptable for a public educational institution to invest in privately owned Big Oil?
Over my years at Mt. A, I have witnessed many situations of disappointment, intense racism and sexism that have been exacerbated by the administration and their complicit silence. That being said, I am also incredibly proud of the education that I have been privileged to receive. I have made important friendships and profound relationships with professors and staff that I will foster for life.
I am protesting my Convocation to demonstrate the structural inadequacies and failures of this institution by boycotting this quintessential act of university tradition. For what I have stood for and learned at this institution, I am boycotting my attendance to support those who have been systemically rejected from receiving an education. For those who have somehow survived it, I have the sincerest respect. Congratulations to first-generation students, undocumented students, migrant students, low-income students, queer students and racialized students. I am cheering for you.