A chant taught to freshman during Saint Mary’s University Orientation Week is causing quite a stir both on and off campus.
An Instagram video was captured during the school’s annual TURFBURN event Monday, 80 frosh leaders led new students in a chant saying “Y is for your sister, O is for “oh so tight,” U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass – Saint Mary’s boys we like them young.” According to Saint Mary’s University Student Association President Jared Perry, this is a chant that has been taught to Frosh for years.
“I’m really shocked and appalled,” said one grad student. “It’s even worse that it’s from leadership – it would maybe be different if it was random people in the crowd, but the people who call themselves leaders at our school led this… It’s embarrassing really.”
Lewis Rendell, a representative from the SMU Women’s Centre, a space on campus that holds an event in collaboration with Dalhousie Women’s Centre each year called ConsentFest, said that this is “appalling, clearly, and perpetuating wider ideals that are not exclusive to the university. It’s just a manifestation of rape culture, in a really obnoxious and brazen way.” SMUSA has said that this year it might be “a good idea” to sponsor ConsentFest, which is has not done in past.
As of 9 am, #chant was trending on Twitter in Halifax as students, alumni and the public responded to the 15-second clip of cheering leaders.
In a statement from university President Dr Colin Dodds said “My colleagues and I were shocked by this incident and are deeply sorry that our students, and now the community at large, were exposed to disturbing sexually charged material. The University regrets that this was allowed to occur and we apologize unreservedly. I am taking measures to ensure it does not happen in the future.”
Jared Perry, President of SMUSA has stepped down from his position of chair of the Board of Directors of StudentsNS, with Executive Director Jon Williams saying “StudentsNS, its members, and all of the students we represent unequivocally condemn the SMU chant. There is not, and has never been, any place for this sort of culture on our university campuses,” in a written statement. Ironically, the student group last week, with the collaboration of the provincial government announced the beginning of projects spread over several campuses to educate and prevent sexual assault, an investment of $41 156.
When asked why Perry wasn’t stepping down as president of SMUSA, he said that his new goal would be to work with members of the Student Association and the University to target sexism that he feels is pervasive on campus. He did however point to SMU not being an isolated incident, citing support he has been receiving from other Student Association presidents nationwide.
Frosh Leaders have been ordered to take sensitivity training and the Student Association executive are being sent to Saint Francis Xavier University next week to attend a conference about sexual violence and consent. Rendell said that that is a good start, but that SMUSA should let the student body know who is giving the sensitivity training.
Perry and other students have said that this chant and others have been a part of Frosh weeks past, at least since 2009, with chants alluding to rolling a joint and masturbation, as well as the rivalry between Dalhousie, Acadia and Saint Mary’s. Perry says that none of the frosh leaders or Orientation Week facilitators or the 300-400 students on the turf that day “saw the message” that was in the chants, and are committed to “turning it around.”