Returning to university was a non-event for most students in Edmonton this past week, but back-to-school festivities were full of controversy in other parts of the country.
At Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, orientation-week fun was interrupted when news of an offensive chant being taught to new students was brought to light. An Instagram video that was passed around showed the song being sung during SMU’s annual Turf Burn event, featuring 80 frosh leaders leading new students through the chant: “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.”
As an introduction to university life, this chant sets an extremely bad precedent of what type of behaviour will be accepted or overlooked by college-age boys. It tells these students to go ahead and take what they want.
While the offensive chant is bad enough, Saint Mary’s University Student Association President Jared Perry claimed the chant had been taught to freshman students since at least 2009 and he himself had participated in it just this year. This revelation is even more shocking than the chant itself. The fact students have been taught this song for years and yet said nothing until now is proof that rape culture is alive and well among us—and some people don’t even want to realize it.
The idea that no one recognized the message of misogyny in these lyrics, as Perry claims, is ridiculous and the fact they didn’t come forward about it sooner is just sad. It’s more likely that people simply thought there was nothing wrong with a chant so long as they didn’t act on it. This is a common misconception and one that does more harm than good to our overall society.
What’s even more unfortunate is Saint Mary’s isn’t the only university to fall prey to something like this. A few days after it was reported in Halifax, it was revealed that a nearly identical chant had been performed at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder (School of Business) Frosh, a three-day event to welcome new students. Yet again, it appears the student leaders have been aware of the chant for many years and were told to keep it a secret or thought it wasn’t a big enough issue to make a fuss about.
These two events reveal a disturbing trend of student leaders being aware of the promotion of rape culture and yet doing nothing to fix it until they’re caught. As the main representatives of students on campus, they should be the first to put their foot down when something like this is
In the wake of the news, Perry has resigned from his position, saying it would be easier for the organization to move towards fixing this issue without him there. This, along with the decision to order sensitivity training for all those involved with the chant, is a good start to fixing this problem—albeit a late one.
Some people may continue to argue that a simple chant taught to students is harmless and doesn’t mean they will act on it. But that’s just not true. When people start believing it’s OK to sing about things like not getting the consent of underage girls for sex, they might also start to take the words to heart and act on them. If this type of chant even convinces one person that it’s fine to commit rape, that’s one rape too many.