FREDERICTON (CUP) — An Instagram video showing about 400 St. Mary’s University students chanting a sexist cheer is an example of a culture campuses need to change, says StudentsNS executive director, Jonathan Williams.
The video, shot on Monday, September 2, shows the students of the Halifax university chanting “Y is for your sister, O is for ‘oh so tight,’ U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass—Saint Mary’s boys we like them young.”
“We’re shocked that this took place. It’s very disappointing. It’s completely unacceptable to have this kind of thing occur on one of our campuses,” said Jonathan Williams, executive director of StudentsNS, an advocacy group made up of student unions.
Williams said StudentsNS was not aware of the chant. He said it was remarkable that the chant, which has been used for years according to some SMU students, could have carried on for so long. He said the incident is an example of a passive culture on campuses.
“I think it speaks to a culture where we don’t intervene when we hear things that are unacceptable, which is a problem, and that’s a culture that needs to change,” Williams said.
On August 28, StudentsNS announced a $46,156 partnership with the Nova Scotia provincial government to help prevent sexual assault on campuses. The initiative will include two separate reviews of student union policies around alcohol and sexual assault prevention and will help student unions implement changes. There will also be an awareness campaign. Williams said the projects will help prevent such situations from happening again.
“That’s all about giving student unions expert advice on what they can do, to having activities that are safe as possible and promoting a healthy culture,” Williams said, “[to create] a culture on our campuses where people are looking to help each other out if they’re in danger or could be at risk, and certainly this [chant] is not supportive of that.”
Nova Scotia isn’t the only province that’s been aiming to prevent sexual assault on campuses. The Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre also started a project at the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University, and New Brunswick Community College campuses with the same goal. Maggie Crain, the project’s coordinator, said SMU’s chant is not an isolated incident.
“For me, it’s not about SMU. It’s about all universities and colleges. A lot of other colleges and universities have been reprimanded for similar things like this. Unfortunately, my first response to that was not surprised,” Crain said.
Though rape culture is existent on many campuses, Crain said the fact someone pointed the chant out this time around is a sign things may be changing.
“We must be making some headway, some movement that if this chant has been around for so long that finally someone is stepping up and saying ‘This is not right. We need to change this and hold those accountable,’” she said.
Crain said in order to change the culture on campuses, there needs to be an open dialogue about it that engages everyone.
“That’s part of what [we’re] doing on campus…we’ve been striving over the past year and will continue for this coming year to bring awareness to campus about the issue and try to open discussion and break that silence, hopefully bringing this issue out to light,” Crain said.
She said the incident at SMU is something campuses need to reflect on moving forward.
“This isn’t about St. Mary’s University—this is about culture and how we look at this issue now from this perspective with this incident,” Crain said. “To address it as a culture and as a society and be able to talk about this issue in a more wide way with more awareness.”