Arts diplomas don’t state students' majors. One student senator is trying to change that

The physical difference between a UBC bachelor of arts (BA) diploma and diplomas offered by other faculties at UBC is small, but significant for many arts students.

While the diplomas for a bachelor of science and a bachelor of applied science notes the major of the recipient, the BA diploma does not.

Charlotte Gilby, a Faculty of Arts student senator, wants that changed.

“It's quite sad because a lot of arts students aren't aware of it until it's too late. They’re standing on the stage and [they see] ‘bachelor of arts’ rather than ‘history’ or ‘geography,’” Gilby said.

This idea isn’t new, according to Gilby, but has been sidelined in Senate due to work on the academic concessions policy. When she began her term in October, she took the reins on this issue.

Gilby has been working with several people within the Faculty of Arts, including Associate Dean Academic Dr. Stefania Burk, to have the policy changed. With the support of other student senators, Gilby recently released a consultation survey to gather more data on whether a significant amount of arts students want their degrees to be on diplomas.

The response has been overwhelmingly in favour of the change, said Gilby.

The comments from the survey centred around the major theme of wanting ownership over the work put into their degree. But some students cited legal reasons, according to Gilby, saying that they wanted their majors on their diplomas to be able to prove to the government that they’re using their visa in the way they said they would.

Emmanuel Cantiller, a second-year representative in the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), said that having degrees on diplomas is something that should be “expected.”

“When anyone graduates from the university, they should be recognized for what they've done and what specializations that they undertook, because it shows the progress that student made and what that student has chosen to learn,” Cantiller said.

Logistical troubles

Burk says they’re still “not exactly sure it will work.”

“The Faculty of Arts is incredibly large ... and has very long majors. So it's really been a systems issue,” Burk said. “If you're a double major with gender, race [sexuality] and social justice and classical and near Eastern archaeology, it just wouldn't fit on the parchment. We've been trying to work out some of the glitches in the system.”

Another concern includes how to deal with students who have majors in two different faculties.

“Making sure that the parchment will be accurate is one issue for students who have these more hybrid degrees,” Burk said.

As for why this hasn’t happened before, she said that the system was the reason.

“There seems to be enough positive momentum and there's been nothing that has prevented [having majors on diplomas],” Burk said. “There was no good reason other than the difficulty and complexity of it for the system.”

Gilby hopes to have the resolution passed by April, in time for it to be implemented for 2020 graduates, but they are still figuring out what the approval process should be.

“I don't think it's impossible ... but we haven't heard from Senate yet,” Burk said. “Even if the approvals go through ... I don't know if we can roll it out in a way that would ensure that things go smoothly for graduation.”