Controversial comments during a convocation speech prompted Western University to issue an apology to students and their families.
It’s the second time in less than a year that the Ontario post-secondary school has had to address inappropriate comments made by official speakers at convocation.
The latest incident happened on June 17, when Stephan Moccio, who received an honorary doctorate in music, took the stage to address the graduating class.
Moccio is from St. Catharines and is a Western alumnus, and is better known as a Grammy-nominated and Oscar-nominated musician who has worked with Miley Cyrus and Celine Dion.
After receiving his degree, Moccio started his 13-minute convocation address by discussing “fond memories” of what he saw when arriving on campus 30 years ago.
“My earliest memory of driving in off the 401 with a sign that said, ‘Thank you fathers for dropping off your virgin daughters,’” he said, to some laughs.
He also recited a chant about Delaware Hall, which was formally an all-female residence at the school.
“Ooh-ah, deli is the res, ooh-ah, deli is the res, you move to the left, you move to the right, peel your banana and oomph take a bite,” Moccio said.
His speech was then interrupted twice, once by thumping from the audience and another from an audience member shouting something at him.
After his address, music professor James McKay thanked Moccio for his speech.
“Wasn’t that a speech from Stephan? That was wonderful,” said McKay on stage. “I took over the convocation brass in 1999 and I have heard every single convocation speech since then,” he said. “That was one of the best.”
But Western University didn’t seem to agree with McKay as they condemned remarks from Moccio’s speech later that day.
A public statement from President Amit Chakma said Moccio’s comments were “unacceptable and not in keeping with what Western values in a respectful learning and working environment”.
“To the entire Western community, I sincerely apologize to those who attended the ceremony and any others who were offended by these remarks and the subsequent distraction it caused,” Chakma said in the statement.
“Western must remain steadfast in its commitment to creating a safe and respectful environment for all.”
Moccio also later issued a statement to apologize as well.
“I realize the words chosen were not only wrong but undermine decades of work on this very campus to bring justice to important women’s issues,” Moccio wrote. “I will strive to better represent the values of my beloved alma mater in the future.”
The apology marks the second time over the last year that the school has had to address degrading comments towards female students by an official speaker.
In 2018, business person Aubrey Dan made a comment about all female students, stating that he transferred to Western in the early 1980s due to a recommendation by Playboy Magazine.
“According to Playboy magazine, at that time, the women (at Western) are among the best in North America, and obviously they still are,” he said.
He later apologized, stating he was intending to “compliment” the female academics by making reference to their appearance.
“My remarks were made to provide a context of what went through my 19-year-old mind when deciding back in 1983 to go to Western,” he said at the time.
Many spoke up on social media to talk about why being sexualized at a school graduation is a problem.
Imagine being a young woman proudly attending your graduation only to be sexualized by the guest speaker.— Gabi Drolet (@gabrielledrolet) June 18, 2019
This is the 2nd time in the last year that Western has had to apologize for sexist comments made by honorary degree recipients during convocations. https://t.co/6Ptl4nxxl2
This is such an outlandish issue, and the fact that Western has allowed it to become a recurring problem is so beyond me.— Gabi Drolet (@gabrielledrolet) June 18, 2019
I just can't imagine how embarrassed and uncomfortable I'd be if I were attending my graduation with my family and something like this was said.
Shocked to hear that another convocation at @WesternU was ruined by mysoginstic comments. This is the 2nd year in a row that this has happened. More than just apologizing, Western needs to take concrete actions to make sure that this does not happen again. https://t.co/RzassdjJ6S— Frank Ye (@Leafye_river) June 18, 2019
Others expressed frustration with the school in general.
What’s your opinion on the speech? Let us know in the comments.