A year after a controversial underage sex chant frosh video went viral, Saint Mary's University in Halifax is holding a news conference to talk about this year's orientation week plans.
The frosh week chant glorifying non-consensual underage sex with girls was posted online, prompting some university student unions to take precautions for the school year that begins next week.
In the video, which sparked a nationwide debate, students used the word "young" as an acronym in a chant that included the lines: "Y is for your sister […] U is for underage, N is for no consent […] Saint Mary’s boys we like them young."
University officials vowed to make changes, including renaming orientation week to Welcome Week.
SMU introduced a new vetting and training process for Welcome Week leaders, who are trained in a two-day course that includes sessions on sexual consent, diversity, alcohol, mental health and leadership.
"There is a now an orientation steering committee that was formed to redesign Welcome Week and make it more educational, desexualized, inclusive and keeping with the mission and values of Saint Mary’s. We want our new students to have fun and make new friends, but also to learn what it means to be respectful and in-turn make Saint Mary’s a better place for the entire community," the university said in a note to students.
Wednesday's news conference, starting 10:30 a.m. AT, will provide further details about plans for this year’s orientation week.
A different approach
James Patriquin of SMU’s student association said representatives from the university will be involved in planning and monitoring orientation week activities.
"This year, we’ve kind of taken a different approach," he said.
"We want to create a community here of pro-social bystanders where everyone is equipped with skill sets to identify a dangerous situation and then intervene."
SMU graduate student Sandra Pagnottella said she thinks it’s a good idea for the university to get involved.
"I mean, everything that happened last year is obviously not a great thing, but I’m glad that SMU is taking over and making sure that everything’s going to be done the way that they want it to be done," she said.
But Pagnottella admits it may be hard to get students to give up drinking altogether.
"Students are students, I mean everybody has their expectations of what first-year students do," she said.
Dalhousie University's student union is also making changes around what is being offered to first-year students and leaders.
"We, basically, have adapted our training to include a lot of things around sexual assault, sexual harassment prevention. Consent is a huge portion of what we’re going to be covering for first-year students, as well as our leaders," said Danny Shanahan, Dalhousie, executive vice-president of the student union
Dalhousie student Jacy Conrad said orientation week should focus more on meeting new people and less on drinking.
"Every year there's an issue with drinking in universities during frosh week, so it’s probably a good idea to tone down the drinking aspect of it," she said.
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