HALIFAX (CUP) — An offensive chant taught to freshmen during Saint Mary’s University Orientation Week in Halifax is causing a stir both on and off campus.
An Instagram video was captured during the school’s annual TURFBURN event Monday, Sept. 2, wherein 80 frosh leaders led new students in a chant singing “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.
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.”
Perry has said that this year it might be “a good idea” for SMUSA to sponsor ConsentFest, which is has not done in past.
As of 5 p.m. EDT, Thursday, Sept. 5, #chant and other terms related to the incident were trending on Twitter in Halifax as students, alumni and the public responded to the 15-second clip of cheering leaders.
In a statement, SMU’s 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.”
Perry, president of SMUSA, has stepped down from his position of chair of the board of directors at StudentsNS, a provincial post-secondary student association federation, with Executive Director Jon Williams saying in a written statement “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.”
When asked why he wasn’t stepping down as president of SMUSA, Perry 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.
Last week the student group, with the collaboration of the provincial government, announced the beginning of projects spread over several campus’ to educate and prevent sexual assault, an investment of $41,156.
Frosh leaders have been ordered to take sensitivity training and the student association executive are being sent to a conference next week at Saint Francis Xavier University 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, 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.”