Western apologizes for convocation speaker’s remarks

Stephan Moccio addresses graduates at Western University's 313th convocation, June 17, 2019. (Photo from Western University YouTube.)

Western University has issued an apology for “unacceptable” remarks made during Monday’s convocation ceremony by a music producer who received an honorary doctorate.

Stephan Moccio, a Grammy and Academy Award nominated musician who was written songs for Miley Cyrus and The Weeknd, was called out for comments deemed degrading to women during his 13-minute speech to graduates at Alumni Hall.

After receiving an honorary doctorate in music, Moccio began his address by referencing a sign he saw when he first arrived in London to attend the university nearly three decades ago. The sign read “thank you fathers for dropping off your virgin daughters,” recalled the St. Catharines native.

He went on to sing a few lines of an old song about Western’s Delaware Hall, an all-female residence until 1986.

Western President Amit Chakma was quick to condemn Moccio’s remarks.

“At our Convocation ceremony this morning, honorary degree recipient Stephan Moccio made comments that were unacceptable and not in keeping with what Western values in a respectful learning and working environment,” Chakma said in a statement.

Chakma went on to offer an apology to all of those who attended the ceremony and to anyone who was offended by the remarks.

“Western must remain steadfast in its commitment to creating a safe and respectful environment for all,” said Chakma.

Moccio also was quick to apologize, issuing a statement through the university.

“During my convocation address, I made inappropriate comments that I sincerely and deeply regret. I apologize without hesitation to the entire Western community, graduates, family and friends in attendance today,” Moccio said in a statement. “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. I will strive to better represent the values of my beloved alma mater in the future.”

Western issued a similar public apology less than a year ago for controversial comments made by an honouree during convocation. In the fall 2018 convocation, businessperson and philanthropist Aubrey Dan made reference to an old 1980s Playboy article about female Western students, noting it influenced his choice to attend the university. Dan later offered an apology for the comment.