Convocation Hall during convocation. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Computer Science (CS) students started an online petition calling for a review to hold a separate convocation for the department. The petition, titled “Let CS Graduate Together!” proposed that students be given the option to graduate with other students from their department. Currently, CS students graduate with other students from the college to which they belong.

After three months of petitioning, the student-led petition received 809 signatures.

Professional faculties and Rotman Commerce are the only undergraduate divisions with their own ceremonies.

“Members of the committee are aware of the petition and are considering and taking concerns from Computer Science students,” said Elizabeth Church, Interim Director of U of T Media Relations.

“The review is also including a survey of graduates at this year’s spring and fall convocations,” said Church, adding that they also contacted recent alumni and five student governments for comment.

Lana El Sanyoura, a fourth-year CS student and organizer of the petition, spoke with The Varsity regarding her concerns about current convocation procedures and what led her to creating the petition page.

“As Computer Science students, we spend so much of our time working together, so many of our courses are group-based, and we spend hours, even go past midnight, working in the Computer Labs at the Bahen Centre. We also take a majority of Computer Science courses, and have a strong, thriving, localized community that lies within the Bahen Centre, with the student union office, study lounges, computer labs, classes, and professor offices all in one place,” said El Sanyoura in an email.

“However, on the most important day of our academic careers, we are not there for each other at Convocation, because we are graduating with our Colleges.”

El Sanyoura also pointed out that the CS department shares similar features with Rotman Commerce, namely deregulated fees, a grade-based admission process, and a Professional Experience Year Co-op Program, which grants students the option of interning for 12–16 months after their second or third year. Rotman Commerce, unlike CS, has its own convocation.

“This petition could give students the chance to celebrate their undergraduate experience with the community of students and faculty that they had been working along-side of through it all,” continued El Sanyoura.

Ignas Panero Armoska, a second-year CS student, shared the same community sentiment as Sanyoura, expressing a closer connection to classmates in the department.

“I believe that I identify with the CS community so much more than my [college’s], to the point where when people describe how they feel connected to or are vested in their college, I realize that is a space I hold for my computer science community, much like the engineers do.”

Review process

The petition comes after the university announced a review for all upcoming convocations. U of T officials looked at current procedures such as venue size, number of guest tickets, diploma procedures, and whether or not each student should receive their diploma from the chancellor individually. The review also took into account the size of the university.

An advisory committee consisting of both academic staff and administrators from across all three campuses has been created. Among the committee members are Don MacMillan, Registrar at the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering; Silvia Rosatone, Director at the Office of Convocation; Sheree Drummond, Secretary of Governing Council; and Bryn MacPherson, Assistant Vice-President of the Office of the President & Chief of Protocol.

The committee will be looking at the factors and implications associated with the venue and ceremony procedures, such as accessibility services, budgeting, and inclusion of Indigenous culture.

The committee will be consulting with the 2018 spring and fall graduating classes, principals and deans, divisional faculty and staff, and the alumni community regarding final decisions.

Students and staff can submit comments or suggestions to the advisory committee through an online form by November 30. An interim report will be presented in December and a final report is expected to be delivered early next year.

Editor’s note (25/10): This article has been corrected to clarify that the petition did not have a target number of signatures.

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