Student leaders at UBC resign over rape chant controversy
Students and faculty at the University of B.C. are expressing shock and dismay that new students at an orientation at the Sauder School of Business were encouraged to sing along with a so-called rape chant that promotes sex with underage girls and then keeping it a secret.
UBC student Lucia Lorenzi was already speaking out about the culture of frosh week on campus when she learned that some business students had been involved in the chant, which closely mirrors an earlier chant at St. Mary’s University in Halifax that has sparked national outrage.
“It absolutely disturbs me,” said Lorenzi.
The three-day Sauder frosh event on the Sept. 1 weekend was organized by the Commerce Undergraduate Society. “The reaction has been unequivocally and broadly one of horror and outrage among staff, faculty and students,” said Steven Galloway, an associate professor and acting chair of the creative writing department.
Galloway said he wasn’t speaking for UBC, but as a father of two daughters and a UBC alumnus, said he was disheartened. “This is so far out of the cultural norm for what I perceive to be the attitude of the average UBC undergraduate.”
Lorenzi, however, wonders whether the chant is indicative of something wider in campus culture.
Lorenzi had already blogged about a frosh week booth set up outside the student union building that advertised a local nightclub to students by blaring a song with these lyrics: “I’m only here for the bitches and the drinks, the bitches and the drinks.”
It troubled her, but because the booth was run by a noncampus group, she didn’t blame frosh organizers.
Then came the Sauder frosh chant.
Lorenzi, a PhD student who was sexually assaulted as a teenager, said she was particularly dismayed by news that students that participated were instructed by their frosh leaders to keep the chant private.
“The attitude that you can do this and try to keep it out of the public eye means you know it’s wrong,” said Lorenzi.
The issue came to light after a student named Emma tweeted the chant: It began “Y-O-U-N-G at UBC, we like ’em young,” and went on to talk about underage sisters, sex and lack of consent. The UBC student newspaper, Ubyssey, broke the story on Friday.
Chelsea Maguddayao, a firstyear student told the Ubyssey she joined in the chant on a bus. She told the paper frosh leaders warned them to keep the incident secret.
On Sunday, the Commerce Undergraduate Society and the UBC Alma Mater Society released a joint statement apologizing for the chant and promising a full investigation. The AMS is an organization charged with overseeing conduct of student organizations. In a phone interview, AMS president Caroline Wong said “both frosh chairs have resigned.”
On Friday, the Commerce society issued a statement signed by president Enzo Woo, vice-president Gillian Ong and frosh co-chairs Jacqueline Chen and Jonathan Li, saying they have a no-tolerance policy for activities that are harmful toward other students.
“While we do our best to provide a safe and controlled environment during formal Sauder frosh sessions, there is admittedly little we can do to completely control what some leaders may expose their students to,” the statement said.
The statement goes on to say that the society will take “all feasible steps” to eradicate unacceptable behaviour.
Woo declined a request for an interview but said the responsibility for stopping the chants lies with individual frosh leaders.
UBC officials did not return calls from The Sun on Sunday.
But Sauder dean Robert Helsley said in statement that the business school and the office of the UBC vice-president, students will conduct an investigation and that any disciplinary measures will follow the university’s policy on non-academic misconduct.
Lorenzi, who was a frosh leader for three years during her undergrad years at Simon Fraser University, said she believes the first-year students participating in orientation never should have been put in the position of having to take part in the chant.
“It’s your first year, your first week and being the one who ‘ruins the fun’ might be a very difficult position.” She hopes UBC will nurture a culture where students who are uncomfortable can be more than bystanders.
“Leaders are supposed to be committed to acting in the best interests of our students. Anyone who steps up to a leadership role, who agrees to be a representative of the university, needs to be held accountable.”
Other North American universities have strict policies governing frosh behaviour, including Yale, which banned frosh activities in 2010 after a similar rape chant scandal.
email@example.com With a file from Tiffany Crawford