The University of Ottawa has scrapped the use of the ancient Latin language on its diplomas due to declining student interest and technical difficulties translating 21st-century words like "software" and "genomics."
University registrar Francois Chapleau said of the roughly 6,700 students the institution expects to graduate this year, only about five per cent requested their documents be written in Latin.
As a result, the school senate voted unanimously to scrap the language of the Romans in favour of the other two existing options, French and English. The decision takes effect immediately, though requests that have already been submitted will be honoured.
"If there's a major issue with this, we will see (if there are alternatives), but at this point, we haven't heard of any major issue," he said.
While traditionalists may scoff at the linguistic update, Mr. Chapleau argued many logistical problems have surfaced over the years.
"First, there was little request for Latin diplomas," he said. "We had a few complaints (from) students indicating that they ordered their diplomas in Latin and when they applied for a job, the employer actually asked for a translation of the diploma."
Also, because the language hasn't been widely spoken in hundreds of years, he suggested, there are no standard Latin words for newer terms such as biopharmaceutical or ophthalmic.
"The fact that we have all kinds of new diplomas that might require the creation of new terms in Latin that were not created originally -- in many ways, the verification of the quality of the Latin is always an issue," he said. "There are terms that are very recent, in terms of anything like software and stuff like that."
While the university has adapted by asking its in-house ancient studies experts to "Latinize" the terms, Mr. Chapleau said the lack of demand led many to question the usefulness of the practice.
Those factors indicate a change in times and support for the decision to drop the language, he argued.
Mr. Chapleau did admit some academic purists would likely be disappointed.
"To any action, there's a reaction, but we'll see how big the reaction is," he said. "We have students on the senate and nobody said anything in particular about that issue, so I assume everything went well. This motion has been floating around the university for a while."
The university's senate is comprised of about 75 individuals, including students, professors and administrators.
Ontario's institutions of higher learning vary in the language options they offer graduates.
Queen's University in Kingston, for example, prints all its degrees in Latin except for the Bachelor of Arts and BA (Honours) programs. However, that appears to be somewhat of an exception.
The University of Toronto prints all its diplomas in English, with only honorary degree parchments appearing in Latin. The University of Western Ontario in London follows the same standard.
Carleton University did not return a request for comment.
... actually, I'm somewhat surprised Latin diplomas have lingered this long ...