I was shocked when the Saint Mary University's now-infamous frosh chant was released and quickly went viral. That video can be seen here, and although I will not repeat what was willingly (and happily) chanted by both young men and women, I will summarize that the chant received the attention it did because it encourages raping underage women. (View the video at your own risk.)
But as shocking as the chant itself was, that was not what shocked me. What shocked me was professionals, adults, students, and parents - many of whom have been to university and college campuses and received a university or college education - expressing shock!
It was as if never before had any political commentator, any journalist, any parent, or any number of the people subsequently interviewed to express their well-found outrage had ever been to a university or college campus before.
As much as I would like to expect my fellow student peers to act like adults, I have no unreasonable expectations about their lack of ability to always behave as such. I also have no unreasonable expectations or beliefs about what university is. Most students behave appropriately, but some do not.
Thousands of new students flock to university and college campuses each year. Many have just graduated high school, saved a bit of money (or borrowed a sustenance's sum from their parents), and jumped in their parents' car to move into their new residence or apartment. For many students this is their first time away from home, if not ever, then at least for such a long period of time.
Frosh week was once about bringing these new students together. It was once an ice-breaking opportunity for students to tour the campus, meet their professors and teaching assistants, learn the university's academic policies and expectations, and socialize with their new classmates and roommates.
Back then the introduction to a post-secondary education was first and socializing was second. Perhaps the students' parents would stay for the first few days to help unpack or buy furniture for that new apartment. It used to be about making the violent shove into adulthood a little less violent.
Nowadays this shove is just as violent, and students increasingly turn to alcohol and drug use and destructive social relationships to cope.
Somewhere the priority list was reversed, and frosh week became about destructive forms of socializing first and learning students' rights and responsibilities second.
Is it any surprise that frosh weeks at campuses across Canada have become "alcohol-fuelled", sexualized, violent, and uncontrollable? Is it any surprise that ridiculous chants, outrageous student council decisions, and large student-led riots increasingly make the evening news?
The Saint Mary's student association's president acknowledged the chant highlighted "a culture of sexism" on campus. Yet as the leader of these students, and some would say as a senior elected guardian of sorts, he allowed the chant to go on. Ditto for the Vice President of Student Life - a female - who was directly responsible for the organizing and coordination of the frosh week activities.
Both have resigned, purportedly realizing their mistakes, yet the President has already announced his intent to seek election as the President again next year.
His instant resignation followed by his announcement to again run for President is telling in itself. It speaks volumes about a President, supposedly a student leader, who resigns from his role when the job is tough, but wants to seek election again a few months down the road when the media go away.
For its part, the university is calling in a "bullying expert" to attempt to quell the outrage. What these students need is not lectures on why bullying is wrong, but a basic understanding of self-decency and self-worth. Groupthink is a dangerous drug; every female seen engaging in the chant is proudly doing so. Not one person - male or female - can be seen taking a stand against the chant. All are gleefully signing along. I wonder, if asked, if each student would repeat their President's pathetic attempt at rationalization: "well, we've been doing it since 2009..."
Parents and professors alike are also calling for adult intervention and increased supervision against, ahem, adults. Parents don't seem to understand it was their job to prepare their young sons and daughters for life as a post-secondary student. The parents are attempting to shift the blame away from themselves for failing to raise young adults who understand it's not okay to say what was said, who know how to behave in public, and who know how to be model citizens. Increased adult supervision doesn't often come on university campuses, and, when it does, it is usually in the form of a student getting a zero mark or the police being called.
The Saint Mary's chant was despicable and offensive. But what was really surprising was the public's collective outrage and surprise that these sorts of chants happen on university campuses in the first place.
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