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Photo by Daman Singh

Audience members shout chants during convocation ceremonies

By Daman Singh, June 7 2024—

On June 3, the University of Calgary hosted the Faculty of Arts graduation ceremony in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium during which members of the audience shouted chants as graduates walked the stage. The chants mainly criticized the university’s actions on May 9, where the Calgary Police Service was called by the U of C to disband the Calgary Student Movement encampment

The 2024 convocation ceremonies began May 30 and continued until June 5. Preceding the ceremonies, the U of C  sent an email to convocation volunteers titled, “Preparedness for Potential Disruptions at Convocation Ceremonies”. The email asked volunteers and supporters of the ceremonies to report and to report any disruptions. 

“Be vigilant for potential disruptions, including students making political statements, carrying flags or engaging in disruptive behaviours prior to crossing the stage,” reads a statement from the email, posted to the @uofc_divest4pal instagram

During the Faculty of Arts graduation ceremony, audience members shouted chants and disruptive dialogue as students walked the stage. The Gauntlet was present at the ceremony as part of the audience, but could not identify the speakers. 

“The students united, we’ll never be defeated,” said unidentified audience members. 

The president walking on stage led to students expressing disapproval of his actions from May 9. Groups of students talked about the encampments, the university’s response and the subsequent police confrontation that concluded with the use of flashbangs and pepper spray on the students. .

“I heard he gassed his students—that’s crazy. I heard he called the police and gassed his students,” said an unidentified audience member. “Did you read the part where he said there was ‘no injuries’, in his email?”

The Gauntlet reached out to the university for a statement questioning the purpose of the email to the convocation volunteers. In an email response, the university mentioned that the email reminded volunteers of rules and safety procedures to remind volunteers what was expected of them. 

“Following recent protests, some volunteers asked what was expected of them. The email reminded volunteers of convocation rules and safety procedures that have been in place for years. It also advised them not to act if there was a disturbance. Instead, volunteers were encouraged to contact a marshal if they developed any concerns,” reads the statement.

Photo of audience member holding up a pro-Palestinian flag by Daman Singh

“Free speech is welcome on campus, including uncomfortable speech. By reducing the number of people concerned about protests we hoped our campus community could focus on celebrating student success,” the statement continues. 

The convocation ceremonies ended on June 5 and can be live-streamed on the U of C website.

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