UVic student with autism wants to graduate with everyone else

A University of Victoria student with autism is gaining public support in his bid to graduate with his fellow students. 

After spending five years studying political science and social justice at the University of Victoria, 32-year-old Nathan Bodie won't be able to graduate this spring with his fellow students because his courses don't count for credit. 

Bodie is receiving support from STEPS Forward - the B.C. Initiative for Inclusive Post-secondary Education, which helps people with developmental disabilities access post-secondary education. 

"It's just something I've wanted to do ever since I was young," said Bodie.

Seven campuses in B.C. take part in the program, all of which allow students to graduate with their peers, except Uvic.

Bodie will be getting a certificate of completion once he finishes his program, but says he's upset he won't get to walk across the convocation stage like everyone else.  

"I did the work that the other students have done. I wrote all the papers. I did the exam ... I was upset, I kind of felt like it was five years for nothing," said Bodie.

Nathan's mother, Nancy says that this issue goes beyond her son. It affects his classmates and future students in the program. 

"To be denied the ultimate moment at the end is just crushing," said Bodie.

Petitioning the public

Family friend and fellow student, Julia Templeman has gathered more than three thousand signatures in a petition imploring the University of Victoria to allow STEPS Forward students to take part in convocation. 

"We have such a reputation of being a really progressive school, and there's just like a few things that aren't super inclusive, so I just really want to help UVic become really progressive," said Templeman.

"If I can't get Nathan to cross that stage in June, then I'm going to continue fighting this issue next year, and just get more and more people on board."

A proposal from STEPS Forward will come before the University of Victoria senate on April 6. If approved, Nathan Bodie would be allowed to participate in a convocation ceremony. 

In a statement, the university says the proposal is intended to "create an appropriate pathway for recognition that would involve certificates of completion and participation in a convocation for STEPS Forward students who complete their studies at the university." 

Student Liaison Director for STEPS Forward, ​Arden Duncan Bonokoski, says she submitted the proposal to the convocation committee in December.

She says the university has been very supportive of STEPS Forward, but she's not sure what the outcome will be from the senate meeting.

"With this, the workings of the committee have been very internal. They've kept us updated on the way and they've asked for clarification, and then they've told us that an answer would come next week." 

However, Bodie fears the response is just a stall tactic.

"I just feel like UVic's just stonewalling ... waiting for graduation to come and pass."