Editorial: Honorary degrees should be given separate ceremonies

On June 7, Québecois poet and songwriter Gilles Vigneault accepted an honorary doctorate of literature at a ceremony in St. Patrick’s Building.

What made the ceremony unique was how it took place at a date and time that was separate from the regular week of convocation ceremonies, which took place from June 12-16.

While this change from the typical routine was the only one of its kind for this convocation season, this routine should become the norm for other honorary degree recipients.

Recipients should continue to speak at the regular ceremonies, but their background needs to make sense with the degrees being conferred that day. For example, if Vigneault received his degree on the same day as law students or science students, it would seem out of place.

As well, some speakers can outshine the graduates themselves. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently spoke at a University of Ottawa convocation ceremony, and while he gave a great speech, the day suddenly became about his presence rather than the graduates—all of whom spent years working hard for their degrees.

If more honorary degrees were awarded at a time and place that made sense to their body of work, it would ensure the attention is focused on them and their accomplishments—rather than forcing them to compete with hundreds of graduates on their special day.