An Orientation Week event at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, which saw students chanting about non-consensual sex with underage girls according to the National Post, has led to outrage, disciplinary hearings, resignations and mandatory sensitivity training for 80 students.
Sadly, the University’s response doesn’t seem to include a stronger Catholic identity, which appears to have largely disappeared from Canada’s oldest English-speaking, Catholic university.
The chant, which was captured on video and later became public, was reportedly sung by student leaders in front of approximately 300 freshmen last week as part of orientation activities.
Video taken of the event shows orientation officials leading students in chanting: “SMU boys we like them YOUNG!” They then spelled out “Young” with the letters standing for other words including, "Y is for your sister," "U is for underage" and "N is for no consent." (Other parts of the song are too crass to be reported here.) Both male and female students in the video joined in the chant.
The president of the Catholic university, Colin Dodds, said in a statement that he was “shocked” and “deeply sorry” for the incident.
The head of the student union as well as the vice-president of student life stepped down shortly after the incident, according to CTV. The University website also states that two student organizers will face a disciplinary hearing in relation to the event.
Dodd, in his statement, said 80 student leaders involved have been required to take part in a sensitivity seminar.
The president’s statement, the release from the University on disciplinary activity and even a subsequent release on the hiring of a bullying expert fails to mention the University’s Catholic identity in relation to this incident. The Catholic identity has been on the wane for several decades, beginning with the Jesuits’ turnover of the administration to a primarily lay Board of Governors in 1970. In 2007, when Halifax Archbishop Terrence Pedergast, S.J., was reassigned to Ottawa, he approved changes to the University Act so that his successor would no longer be University chancellor.
Instead, current Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini now serves in the honorary post of “visitor” to the University. The campus chaplaincy is ecumenical but led by Catholics, and four seats on the Board of Governors are reserved for Catholics.
The University Act still includes among its four objectives “to give special emphasis to the Christian tradition and values in higher education.” But the University’s mission statement makes no mention of a religious identity at all.
Far from working towards strengthening the University’s adherence to Catholicism in response to last week’s scandal, the University has named Wayne MacKay, former chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying, to lead a task force examining sexual violence prevention on campus, according to the University’s statement.
As part of the Human Rights Commission, Mackay led the charge for the government to award spousal benefits to homosexuals, calling it a “step forward for all Nova Scotians,” according to LifeSiteNews.com. He also acted as a “constitutional consultant” to the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League to challenge laws prohibiting free-standing abortion clinics, according to his CV.
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