Nova Scotia

Parents, students frustrated after X-ring ceremony goes online

St. FX administrators in Antigonish to host virtual ceremony after COVID-19 numbers worsen in the province.

St. FX says holding an in-person ceremony amid a pandemic isn't worth the risk

Administrators at St. Francis Xavier University say the traditional X-ring ceremony will be a virtual affair this year. (Submitted/Phil Taylor)

St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., is reconfiguring its X-ring ceremony this year, but not everyone agrees with the changes. 

School officials will broadcast the event online due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the province.

"It wasn't an easy decision," said St. FX vice-president Murray Kyte. "But we knew at the end of the day that we did not want to create an environment where we would increase the risk to our community and the Antigonish community."

Students were informed of the change this week over social media, with a number of commenters expressing disappointment that students weren't given a say in the decision after spending years working toward this moment.

Missing a 'rite of passage'

Crystal Wentzell's daughter expected to receive her X-ring at a regular ceremony next month.

Now, after a four-year nursing degree, the piece of jewelry will be sent to their Halifax home by mail. 

Adding to Wentzell's frustration is that the university won't pay for shipping.

"The ceremony is almost a rite of passage for these students," said Wentzell. "They look forward to it, I think, more than the actual graduation ceremony."

Roughly 800 students are eligible for X-rings at the Dec. 3 ceremony, including more than 150 graduates who live outside Antigonish. 

Ceremony held every Dec. 3

The rings were created during the Second World War. Before that, each graduating class appointed a committee to design a pin for their class with its own motto. 

In 1942, a ring bearing a simple X was created instead — and a tradition was born. The university bills it as the third-most recognized ring in the world, after Super Bowl and papal rings.

The first ring ceremony took place in 1958. It was reinstated in 1982 and held every year on Dec. 3, or what's known as St. FX Day.

Some parents and students have questioned why the university won't postpone the Dec. 3 ceremony until next year. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Wentzell said she believes St. FX administration should have offered to reschedule the event.

"Later in the year would be a great option. And if COVID rears its ugly head again in the new year then it will have to go virtually," she said. "But there was never any mention or consideration to just postponing the ceremony."

Hundreds sign petition

Although some commenters on Tuesday's social media post expressed disappointment, others supported the decision, saying it was the right thing to do. Still, many asked the university to consider postponing the event.

As of Thursday night, close to 400 people had signed an online petition asking the university to give students the option of an in-person ceremony at a later date.

Kyte said there are multiple reasons why a postponement was not considered.

The rings are typically handed out on Dec. 3, as that day pays homage to the university's patron saint.

He also said predicting COVID numbers by spring would be difficult. Finally, he said the university could not keep hold of student rings.

"We can't replicate it," he said of the traditional X-ring ceremony. "But we're going to do a really good job at it and we'll make the best of it."

School officials say the X-ring is copyrighted and must be earned to be worn. Only a graduate of the university or a senior student is eligible to purchase a ring. 

with files from CBC Radio's Mainstreet Cape Breton


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