During yesterday’s Remembrance Day ceremony at Grant Hall, Rector Nick Day gave a speech to listeners that divided student opinion.
Day began his speech by introducing his position as rector in the university administration. He then shared his personal reflections on his grandfather’s service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII before segueing into more current affairs.
Day spoke about present day suffering, referencing Pinochet’s regime in Chile, aboriginal rights in Canada and the Rwandan Genocide.
“In order to truly honour the sacrifices of those who fought for justice, we are now required to speak about new forms of injustice,” he said.
Alicia Sgromo, ArtSci ’13, attended the ceremony in Grant Hall. She said the content of the speech offended quite a few people and Day should issue an apology.
“Basically his comments at the Remembrance Day memorial were inappropriate for the setting. It wasn’t the time or place and no one was there to listen to his political views,” she said adding that Day took advantage of the privilege that he was given.
Last night’s AMS Assembly passed a motion in response to Day’s speech. The motion was brought about by member-at-large Craig Draeger. The motion stated ‘that AMS Assembly, in order to preserve the political neutrality of Remembrance Day, formally censures Rector Nick Day for his disrespectful comment at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Grant Hall on Nov. 11 2010.’ The motion brought up an array of different perspectives from student leaders and heated up when members of the gallery brought a Maclean’s blog post regarding Day’s speech to the Assembly’s attention. Members of the gallery were concerned that Day’s speech was bringing negative attention to the University and tarnishing its reputation.
After debate, the motion was passed with a secret ballet with a vote of 14 in favour, 10 against. 11 people abstained.
Draeger, ArtSci ’13 and a member of the Journal Editorial Board, said Day had a responsibility to act in response to the decorum of the situation. Draeger, speaking to the assembly, said Day failed, unnecessarily offending and alienating people in the student body.
“Day isn’t taking responsibility where he should. We are not reprimanding him for his opinions but for his actions,” Draeger said.
In censuring Day’s actions, Draeger said the AMS formally acknowledges that he was not representing the organization.
Censoring Day wasn’t a concern for the Assembly because it was agreed that he was entitled to his own personal opinions. Rather, the motion was concerned with whether or not the Remembrance Day service was an appropriate place to express his own political opinions in association with his position as rector.
Day said that after he finished his speech at the service he received applause and positive comments from audience members.
“Six faculty members emailed to express their thanks about the speech,” he said, adding that he also received four or five emails from people explaining why they were displeased with his speech.
Even though he was reprimanded, Day says he wouldn’t treat the situation differently if he were to do it again.
“I’ve already made the decision to make these comments because I thought they were important and meaningful,” he said. “I worked extremely hard to be respectful with my comments because I have the utmost respect for people who make sacrifices for others, so I worked really hard to make sure that what I said was … purely about the ideas and in no way about attacking people.”
Day was approached to address the audience at the service by the University Chaplain. Both knew the speech would feature sensitive themes, however the Chaplin approved Day’s speech on the basis that he was asked to speak about his views on Remembrance Day.
“Remembrance Day has to be political,” Day said. “It’s already political. World War II was very much a patented political event and to remember it also has to be political.”
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