Last week a disturbing trend of jokingly glamourising statutory rape of underage girls has perpetuated across two different Canadian universities: Saint Mary’s University in Halifax during orientation week and the University of British Columbia’s CUS‘ frosh week.
It’s strange to see that both use the word “YOUNG” as an acronym in both of their chants, and almost each letter stands for the same thing, Representatives of both universities claim it to be tradition:
“Like I said, it’s been going on for years,”
–Jared Perry, The Globe and Mail
“I think it’s all passed down year after year … from forever, I guess”
–Jacqueline Chen, The Ubyssey
While improbable things can happen, the likelihood of these two chants being around in their respective communities for years before someone turned on their head and noticed is low. One could make an argument that this chant existed at some other university and was adapted for other institutions as it disseminated, but the fact that these two incidents occurred within days of each other is very suspect.
Another issue is how no one thought it odd to have a chant about boning underage girls. If people have been around for a long time and lived with the chant, sure, it might be normalised and longtimers would be desensitised to it, but for these chants to exist for years unnoticed in a society that is becoming more egalitarian is near-impossible, especially if first-years are subject to them. I would like to think that newcomers to these universities have been exposed to “rape isn’t something to joke about” sentiments. Something as crass as this would have had more social media attention on it in previous years if it really occurred for a long time.
What do I think happened? Some kid thought it was hilarious to make this chant for wherever they were, and someone elsewhere got wind of it and thought it was funny too. From there it spread, all the way over to UBC.
The most shocking part of all of this is the disparity between the responses the two university representatives made:
“We didn’t see the message,” Mr. Perry said. “As odd as it sounds we didn’t see the message … we now realize that it’s extremely serious and we don’t want it to happen any more.”
-Globe and Mail
“We had problems a very long time ago with the cheers being public in a sort of way and the dean seeing,” Chen said. “We let the groups know: if it happens in the group, it has to stay in the group.”
While Perry seems to be repentant for his nonaction, Chen appears to be more worried about this behaviour being discovered by an outside party. This suggests one of two things:
- She is fine with the chant as long as it can’t be traced back to the committee, effectively minimising the problem of sexual assault.
- She admits that this incident is out of her control and is trying to minimise its impact, effectively calling her leadership management skills into question.
There’s a lot of inter-faculty teasing that goes around at UBC: Arts kids being told their diploma is worthless, engineers being virgins, etc, and in jest that’s fine; hardly anyone takes such claims seriously. But a social issue like sexual assault (of a minor, no less) is not funny, especially when most of the population of the place you’re in is undergoing the sexual experimentation phase of their life.
In any case, it doesn’t reflect well on Sauder’s reputation. I hope (in Sauder’s best interests) that they will have a personnel shuffle going and a better public apology instead of disavowing any responsibility to what some frosh leaders may say; as a fraction of the CUS, the frosh events will reflect on the faculty as a whole, and to claim otherwise is foolish.
[UPDATE Sept. 18th, 2013]
UBC has just published a fact-finding report today detailing what the fact-finding team has discovered in CUS FROSH.