VANCOUVER – The University of British Columbia says the undergraduate society at the centre of a pro-rape 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 during orientation week, 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.
The song students sang on a bus spelled out the word ‘young’ with the lyrics, “Y is for your sister … U is for underage, N is for no consent.”
University President Stephen Toope said the entire UBC community must embark on complete and lasting change that will make such chants unacceptable.
“We all need to be involved — those who made serious mistakes and misjudgments, and those who didn’t,” he said in a statement.
He has appointed the vice-president of students to lead a task force to come up with broader measures to address the deeper problem.
Robert Helsley, dean at the Sauder School of Business, said he will ensure inappropriately sexualized events such as the chant during FROSH week will never happen again and that all students will feel safe and welcome.
In a report on the incident, 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 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 with them if they felt uncomfortable, others said “there is no chance they would.”
Four student leaders of the undergrad society quit last week.
The university said in its report that there’s no evidence to suggest any of the leaders planned and directed students to use the rape chant, which it called an oral tradition.
Revelations about the chant at UBC 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 for performing the chant with 80 male and female orientation leaders.
They have been required to 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.