UBC students pledge $250,000 to fight sexual abuse - Macleans.ca
 

UBC students pledge $250,000 to fight sexual abuse

Commerce Society sorry for rape chant


 

VANCOUVER – A University of British Columbia undergraduate society involved in a frosh week chant glorifying the abuse of underage girls has pledged to contribute $250,000 for sexual abuse counselling and education for students.

The university released a report Wednesday about the incident, saying student leaders of the Commerce Undergraduate Society will be held accountable because they did nothing to stop the offensive chant heard by most first-year business students.

However, the report found no evidence that any of the student leaders involved planned or directed students to use the chant, though four of them resigned over the scandal last week. The report called the chant an “oral tradition.”

The song students sang on buses going back and forth to the university from a hotel in Richmond, B.C., spelled out the word ‘young’ with the lyrics, “Y is for your sister … U is for underage, N is for no consent.”

Robert Helsley, dean at the Sauder School of Business, said he will ensure such inappropriate events never happen again so all students can feel safe and welcome.

The entire UBC community must embark on complete and lasting change that will make such chants unacceptable, said university president Stephen Toope.

“We all need to be involved — those who made serious mistakes and misjudgments, and those who didn’t,” he said in a statement.

Toope has appointed Louise Cowin, the vice-president of students, to lead a task force to come up with broader measures to address the deeper problem.

Cowin said the task force, which will report back to Toope by early next year, will bring together academic experts in sexualized violence to consider what the university can do to make “transformative and robust change.”

She said the $250,000 will be used to hire a counsellor to work in the university’s counselling service for three years and that the position may be extended.

Cowin said the chant on buses during the Labour Day weekend “became something of a secret, a mark of misguided enthusiasm or attempt to build camaraderie.”

“I think there’s been a lot of soul searching going on and I would imagine some level of anxiety,” she said of the aftermath at the Sauder School of Business.

In its report, the university said a four-member fact-finding team interviewed 62 students and four staff members over three days.

“Some leaders described the purpose of the bus cheers to take people out of their comfort zone and bring them together, and saw them as exclusive to Sauder,” the report said.

It quoted one student saying the bus cheers were taboo, a naughty thing to do, and a way to loosen up.

“On some level all the leaders understood these cheers were inappropriate and offensive and this is why they kept them on the bus,” the report said.

“However, most leaders we interviewed did not think about the meaning of the words or realize the harm they could cause until the chant was made public by the media.”

The report said first-year students indicated that a number of frosh week events were “overly sexualized.”

“I was hesitant to participate but when a leader does it, it seems like a rite of passage,” one of them said.

Another student told interviewers that organizers have a false impression that the cheers are fun.

The report said that while many leaders felt students would speak to them if they felt uncomfortable, others said “there is no chance they would.”

The story emerged after a video of students singing the same song at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax made headlines.

The president of the Saint Mary’s Students’ Association apologized.

They must take a sensitivity seminar before the end of the month, and the university announced a special panel to look at ways to prevent sexual harassment on campus.

At the Memorial University of Newfoundland, the engineering society has also apologized for handing out beer mugs with a sexually suggestive message at an off-campus student party.

—Camille Bains


 

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