HALIFAX – A panel launched in the aftermath of a frosh week chant that glorified the sexual assault of young girls delivered a report Thursday calling on Saint Mary’s University to develop a school-wide code of conduct.
The report makes 20 recommendations aimed at fostering a cultural change at the Halifax school to prevent sexual violence and encourage respectful behaviour.
It says the chant at Saint Mary’s University, along with a similar one sung during an orientation week event at the University of British Columbia, highlighted broad societal challenges that need to be addressed rather than issues specific to youth culture.
“Hypersexualized songs, photos, movies and advertisements are omnipresent. Alcohol and drug problems abound — even among public figures that are supposed to be role models,” says the 110-page report.
“The Internet and social media are forces for good but also have a much darker side like easy access to pornography, cyberbullying and the deterioration of people’s capacity to form meaningful ‘in-person’ relationships.”
Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University, was appointed to lead the panel that consulted with students, faculty members and alumni about ways to avoid similar incidents in the future.
MacKay said the code of conduct should establish clear standards of behavioural norms that would apply to all members of the university community and there should be consequences for people who breach it.
He said Saint Mary’s University should also invest in education programs to teach students about healthy sexuality and the importance of consent.
The university set up the panel after a video surfaced on Instagram showing student leaders singing a chant about underage, non-consensual sex to about 400 new students at an event during orientation week in September. The song spelled out the word “young” with the lyrics, “Y is for your sister … U is for underage, N is for no consent.”
Colin Dodds, the university’s president, said he supports the report’s advice and will report every six months on how the school is implementing it.
“We embrace the recommendations and commit to sharing our progress,” he said. “We can set a standard for others to follow.”