Former frosh leader voiced concerns about SMU chant last year

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Jacob Boon
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Updated: This isn’t the first time Saint Mary’s has heard complaints about their frosh chant...

SMUSA president Jared Perry apologizes for the sexual chant during a press conference at Saint Mary's University, Sept. 5. Behind him stand the orientation leaders from this year's frosh events. (Metro Halifax)

This isn’t the first time Saint Mary’s Student Association (SMUSA) has heard complaints about their frosh activities.

Third-year SMU student and former frosh leader Alexandria Bennett says she voiced concerns to SMUSA last year.

The now infamous event was captured in an Instagram video, uploaded this week, which shows orientation leaders participating in a chant condoning sexual assault and sex with underage women.

Bennett says she heard the same chant at last year’s “Turfburn” event.

"I remember standing in the back, with my group, just hearing people say, 'Oh my god, what the hell is this?'"

After one of her new students, herself a rape survivor, voiced her outrage, Bennett decided to speak with SMUSA General Manager Cathie Ross about her concerns with frosh activities. 

Bennett says the general manager told her the events were “just for fun,” and her concerns were brushed aside.

The student who came to Bennett with concerns eventually transferred to Mount Saint Vincent University.

"She was a rape victim herself and it upset her so much she transferred," Bennett says. "I haven't spoken to her in the last year, so I don't even know if she's still in school."

Spokesperson for Saint Mary’s Steve Proctor told Metro Halifax that senior administrators at SMU were shocked after seeing the “sexist and offensive” chant.

“We were surprised,” he said in an interview.

“The senior director of student services had met with the (student) executive and the organizing committee… and spoke about these very issues and the need to be respectful.”

He says the student union has apologized for the incident and promised the chant will no longer be part of frosh week activities.

Student leaders involved in the orientation week, along with members of the student union executive, will undergo sensitivity training because of the incident.

At a press conference held at Saint Mary’s today, Sept. 5, SMUSA president Jared Perry told reporters “I have personally never received any complaints until yesterday” about the chant.

Perry apologized on behalf of SMUSA, adding he felt “terrible” about having taken part himself and that no one in the organization realized the implications of the wording.

Bennett says that response is “absolute garbage.”

“I know this cheer’s been going on at least since 2010, possible before,” she says. “I can’t be the only student who’s ever stood up against it.”

The psychology major says the chant was just one of many offensive behaviours she saw frosh leaders engaging in last year.

“I was witnessing other leaders buying underage girls, frosh students, buying alcohol for them.”

She says those events happened at a secret party held after last year’s Shinerama charity fundraiser.

"The night after was when I quit. I couldn't do it anymore."

Bennett says it wasn't uncommon for frosh leaders, male and female, to brag about the youngest students they had coerced into having sex.

Calls to SMUSA were not returned, nor were messages left for Carrigan Desjardin. As vice president of student life, Desjardin is, according to Bennett, in charge of approving all frosh activities and leaders. Ross couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Though she still attends SMU and volunteers with the university’s Women’s Centre, Bennett says she discourages other potential students from studying at Saint Mary’s.

"I try not to recommend SMU," she says. "Unless you're super dedicated, you just get caught up in this entrapment of sexuality and alcohol."

She says she's very glad the chant has caused such public outrage.

"The way that they're handling this is not the way it should be handled," she adds. "This is something that does happen and can't be joked around about."

In a later e-mail to HalifaxNewsNet on Friday, Cathie Ross said that she had had no prior knowledge of the chant’s content. “If such a complaint had been made it would have been acted on immediately.”

– With files from Metro Halifax

Organizations: Mount Saint Vincent University

Geographic location: Saint Mary

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  • Theresa
    September 08, 2013 - 10:44

    Remember what we've been saying - since 1979 in Nova Scotia - "TRASH BREEDS TRASH". Keep playing those Facebook games idiots. Just remember, you're attending Mount Saint Vincent. LOL You aren't doing anyone - except me and many other universities - any favors.

  • Dylan Edwards
    September 07, 2013 - 09:29

    I want to see a meaningful response from SMU. Misogyny is not limited to one campus, it is entrenched in many areas of our society, and this incident at Frosh week could be an opportunity for Saint Mary's to lead the way, and set a positive example for others to follow. What if SMU institutes a new Frosh week initiation where students volunteer at Bryony House, or the Grace Maternity Hospital? What if SMU adds a Womens' Studies requirement to their degree? These would not only show how seriously they take this issue, but it would place them in a leadership position.

  • Philip Lucy
    September 06, 2013 - 08:16

    Good for you Miss Bennett. These so called "Leaders" within the student body will possibly be Nova Scotia's' and Canada's future leaders. Then we wonder why there is so much wrong within the business world and politics... If SMU is serious about cleaning its' act, then all Frosh week organisers and student leaders should have to mesure up to higher moral standards, or simply be dismissed. The question is : will anything change?

  • Mark Robertson
    September 06, 2013 - 05:28

    Thank you for some decent reporting! Keep going. There is far too much "political" reporting these days.

  • tina jones
    September 05, 2013 - 20:59

    These ignorant young girls who claim to not be "feminists" clearly do not understand the meaning of the word. Look it up! Feminist (fem-uh-nist) adjective: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. Seriously, who does not want this?! Where are the chants objectifying men? These silly girls who chant along, thinking they're not hurting anyone, just going along to "fit in" and "be cool" are too stupid for words and I hope they flunk out!

  • Stephen Mildenberger
    September 05, 2013 - 20:50

    It sounds like the senior administrative staff also need sensitivity training!

  • Barbara Hodkin
    September 05, 2013 - 20:46

    Good for Ms. Bennett for speaking out. May she keep up the good work.

  • Claude White
    September 05, 2013 - 17:19

    The article looks like it was based off of baseless accusations she put on the SMU facebook wall. Did you follow-up on any of the claims, or it is sourced from a one sided rant from this young woman? Terrible chant, but I can tell you a St FX frosh party I attended years ago in Burke building had chants of the nature "if she can crawl she is already in the right position" and "old enough to bleed old enough to breed". It isn't school specific; I'm sure if you recorded any frosh party at any university you would see the same thing. We have taught our children to "do what feels good", "sexual freedom is liberation", "females are sexual objects", they are just acting out what they have been taught and trust me, it will only get worse before it gets better.

    • Justin
      September 08, 2013 - 12:56

      @Claude yeah that only applies if you go to a joke of a school rofl. Stfx? Really? How's your useless degree treating you?