Plans to remove Latin from UCD degrees and conferring ceremonies by the President Andrew Deeks has caused a backlash among academic staff and the Students’ Union.
Yesterday at the UCD Academic Council, which meets once a semester and deals with changes to academic issues and procedures the President brought forward a proposal to remove Latin from the UCD conferring graduation ceremony.
The proposal was met with opposition from both staff, students, and the Students’ Union representatives present. The motivations behind the decision Deeks claimed in a briefing document were ‘to reflect the global engagement of UCD’. The document, from a University Management Team working group outlined the ‘The current Latin parchment is in line with the academic tradition of the NUI. It can, however, burden students with translation costs, in particular international students. It can also be perceived as out of step with UCD’s role as a globally engaged University’.
However, both students and senior change spoke out against the proposal, saying it would bring UCD outside of international norms and traditions. A source from the Council outlined that ‘fifteen maybe twenty people who spoke, all of whom were in favour of keeping Latin, from veterinary to medicine.’
The Education officer of the Students’ Union Lexi Kilmartin requested a vote be taken on the issue but said the President refused to hold a vote. ‘I also formally expressed our dismay at not having a vote and it to be noted in the minutes that we disagreed very strongly with it in the minutes, on behalf of the student population in UCD’.
‘It was disagreed with very vocally with most people in the room, nobody spoke to say they should get rid of Latin. Yet he [Deeks] still refused to put it to a vote’ said Kilmartin.
‘We are very unhappy with the process. He isn’t going through the proper channels, it’s very dictatorship like … Academic Council is a decision-making body, it’s all heads of schools and their opinions were completed disregarded’ Kilmartin concluded.
He isn’t going through the proper channels, it’s very dictatorship like
Graduate Officer Cian Casey labelled the President’s actions as ‘an abuse of power’.
Roisin O’Mara, SU Welfare Officer, who was also present stated that ‘it was ticked off as approved despite us saying we want a vote. Nobody spoke for it’.
By proceeding to implement the removal of Latin for UCD graduations and degree’s without a vote the President Deeks has breached the regulations of the Academic Council. In the regulations of the Council Section 3.6 states that ‘‘every issue at the Academic Council determined by consensus … but where consensus is not possible, the issue shall be decided by the majority of the votes of members present’.
The awarding of degrees is the function of the Academic Council, which is enshrined the the statues of constitution of the university. However, Andrew Deeks has now pushed the issue to the implementation stage under the University Management Team’s responsibility.
Upon taking office in UCD Deeks re-organised the structure of management and created the University Management Team, which he chairs. The UMT has become the key decision-making body in the college administration and the central hub in the university’s management. It’s power has now in practice superseded the university’s Governing Authority and the Academic Council, the two formal decision making bodies in UCD.
A spokesman for the university didn’t not respond at the time of publishing when queried on the allegations that President Deeks was acting in an abuse of power.
From 2017 onwards UCD degree’s will be written in English alone, which differs from the traditions in Yale, Harvard, Trinity and most universities. Latin has been the language UCD degrees have been awarded in since its inception under the National University of Ireland.
Speaking on the change Dr Andrew Thein, head of the school of Classics said he felt it the inclusion of Latin in the ceremony while keeping a link to the tradition and history of the college added ‘gravitas’ to the day. Thein said it was ‘nice to have it as part of the ceremony’. Thein confirmed that most academics and student representatives there from ‘Sciences, Vet, got up and said it was a waste of time’ to get rid of the tradition.
Other changes Andrew Deeks is considering is separating the conferring of degrees from their presentation. The current tradition is to confer (or award) the degree’s on the graduates at the ceremony. But as non-degree students and overseas students do not currently have a conferring ceremony the UMT found it to be unfair. Their report admitted such a ‘procedure is rare, if non-existent, in the English-speaking world’.
Students would receive their degree’s after finishing their exams, and could show up to a ‘presentation ceremony’ afterwards if they wanted. The UMT report admitted if followed through ‘the degree of formality of the graduation ceremony may suffer’ for graduates.
Jack Power | Editor