Saint Mary’s University made headlines last week when a controversial chant was filmed and shared by a student.
The cringe-worthy chant praised SMU for “liking them young” and spoke of non-consent and underage girls.
The chant was allegedly used for years and was only brought to the attention of the faculty and the media once a short video was posted on Instagram. Since then, the president of the student union and the 80 or so orientation week leaders have apologized publicly. Faculty has also apologized. The students involved now have to take sensitivity training and attend a conference on sexual consent.
Although SMU is headlining across the country, they are just one of many universities that participate in traditions like this. They are also not the first to make headlines with negative frosh festivities. In 2011 a 19 year-old Acadia student died after consuming a large amount of alcohol.
Frosh week, or orientation week as it is sometimes known, is supposed to be about getting to know your new school and classmates. These festivities caninclude copious amounts of alcohol and initiation activities.
Frosh weeks made the news a few years ago after horror stories about initiation ceremonies came to light. The word often used for these events was “hazing.”
Students were often asked to do humiliating or degrading things to become part of their dorms, sororities or fraternities. Much of the humiliation was focused on the sports teams but there was plenty to go around. All one has to do is google hazing to find stories.
Many frosh events are led by student unions and associations. Over the past decade or so stories from universities have made it to the news by hazing, sexual assaults, and over drinking.
Most universities have an understanding that assault is something that happens on campus. Often to raise awareness, campus women’s groups put on productions of the Vagina Monologues, do “Take Back the Night” marches, and other events. However the message does not appear to be sinking in.
Overdrinking and underage drinking is so commonplace in the Maritimes that many universities simply seem to turn a blind eye to it. If a young student leader likes to party, how hard are they going to try to limit a freshman’s intake of alcohol?
The whole idea of frosh week is outdated. In a country that is starting to become acutely aware of the affects of bullying, is it even really a good idea to haze students, many of whom may have already been bullied and abused before? The idea is to create camaraderie between students. Wouldn’t instilling school spirit and a deeper tradition not do that better?
Would it not go more hand in hand with the progressive attitudes of many of these schools to simply not do a full-blown frosh week?
Memorial University of Newfoundland does not have a frosh week. They have an orientation that spans two days. It includes Residence Assistants from the students respective dorms putting the new students to task on getting their IDs, keys, meal plans and other necessities. It often includes a rally where the students are taught school spirit chants. Hazing is forbidden. There are parties, there is no denying that but they are organized and are often heavily watched by the Residence Assistants.
We all know that overdrinking is a problem, we know that rape and sexual assault is a problem. Why then do we continue a practice that often seems to glorify both? It may be time to put frosh week back in the hands of the university faculty and make it more 21st century appropriate.