Senate: Change a matter of ‘honour’ for grads


Special to Western NewsChemistry professor Mark Workentin, Senate Committee on Academic Policy and Awards (SCAPA) vice-chair, penciled in an ‘^ u’ between the ‘o’ and ‘r’ on his old honors diploma in jest years ago. On Friday, university Senate decided to adopt the Canadian spelling of ‘honour’ on graduation diplomas and all other materials starting in February 2020.

Exceptional graduates will soon be ‘honoured’ – but no longer ‘honored’ – at Western.

As of February 2020, graduation diplomas and all other materials will adopt the Canadian spelling of the word, after years of back-and-forth debate on campus, university Senate decided Friday.

The lone holdout: Honorary, as in honorary degrees, will remain the same, without a ‘u’.

All Ontario universities, and most in Canada, use the ‘honours’ designation, as does the Council of Ontario Universities. Various pages on Western’s website also favour honours, the Senate Committee on Academic Policy and Awards (SCAPA) noted in its unanimous recommendation that Western use honours across all programs and uses.

Few topics have coloured perennial campus discussion as much as this single letter.

When Senate debated the issue in 1997, some argued in favour of making the ‘u’ optional, upon request by graduates.

Minutes of the meeting show the con-u side clamouring for pragmatism: “Both spellings are in common use in this country. We have a way of spelling ‘honors’ and it seems an awful waste of time to go to another spelling when both are in common use.” The pro-u side belaboured the nationalism argument: “The issue is one of Canadian identity, and a majority of students have indicated they feel strongly that they want -our spelling on their diplomas.”

But that 1997 endeavour failed on a 32-25 vote.

Two decades later, it was clear some harboured a wish to settle the matter for good. Friday’s vote – lacking the vigour of previous discussions through the years –­ was unanimous.

Senate’s confirmation in favour of -our also reflected responses to a recent, informal Twitter question asked by Chemistry professor Mark Workentin, SCAPA vice-chair, in which 89 per cent of 292 respondents endorsed ‘honours’ on diplomas.

With this change, previous graduates wanting to replace their ‘honors’ diploma with an ‘honours’ diploma may do so for an administrative fee of $58.50. A replacement honours diploma will be more decorous than simply pencilling in an ‘^ u’ between the ‘o’ and ‘r’ on an old honors diploma, noted Workentin, who edited his own diploma in a moment of whimsical humour years ago.