President of Saint Mary's student union resigns after offensive chant
Published Friday, September 6, 2013 4:36PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 6, 2013 10:21PM EDT
The head of Saint Mary’s University student union in Halifax is stepping down from his position, after a frosh week chant promoting non-consensual sex with underage girls caused widespread condemnation.
Jared Perry announced his resignation on Friday, one day after admitting he made the "biggest mistake" of his university career.
"It is with deep reflection that I tender my resignation, however, I believe this action is in the best interest of the students, the association and the university at this time" Perry said in statement.
He will not be permanently exiting from student politics. Perry, who also stepped down from his position as chair of Students Nova Scotia earlier this week, said he will run again in the next student election.
"I am personally deeply committed to addressing the damage incurred this week by being part of a long-term change initiative," he said.
The vice-president of student life, Carrigan Desjardins, also tendered her resignation on Friday. Desjardin was responsible for overseeing the 2013 Saint Mary’s Student Association frosh week program.
The chant, which was captured on video during orientation week activities and later posted on Instagram, was sung by student leaders in front of approximately 300 first-year students on Monday.
It includes the phrase: "Y is for your sister," "U is for underage," and "N is for no consent."
Two student organizers will also face disciplinary action after a formal complaint was received on Friday, according to news release sent out by SMU.
The release does not name the two students. The hearing is expected to be held within 10 days.
SMU creates council to foster 'cultural change'
Earlier on Friday, SMU named Wayne MacKay, the former chair of the province’s Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying, to lead the so-called President’s Council. The team will be charged with cultivating a "cultural change" on its campus.
“As I watched the events unfold at Saint Mary’s University over the last week, I saw there is clearly more work to be done along the road I have already been travelling in relation to human rights,” MacKay, who is also a professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, said in statement Friday.
The chant, which has been a part of the university’s frosh week tradition, is an example of the attitudes that still exist on many post-secondary campuses, according to MacKay.
"These are the kinds of issues that need to be addressed, and I suspect that’s an issue that about every university campus, not just in Atlantic Canada, but in Canada generally and beyond," MacKay told CTV Atlantic on Friday.
He added that the issue also extends beyond school campuses, and is a reflection of the values in broader society.
"There’s a larger problem of how we view women and how we create these stereotypes."
MacKay said these views on sex and consent are likely more accepted amongst males. However, they also affect how females view themselves.
"(These values) certainly affects how women view themselves and what they see as acceptable," he said.
The chant, which will no longer be performed at SMU, was sung by both male and female students.
SMU's President Council will be tasked to provide recommendations to "foster cultural change that prevents sexual violence, inspires respectful behaviour and safe learning environment within the Saint Mary’s community."
The council's recommendations are expected to be release by mid-December.
Other members of the President’s Council will be made up of individuals from SMU's community.
The council was initiated by SMU’s president, Dr. Colin Dodds.
"Wayne blends a superior understanding of the issue and of an academic environment and so is ideally suited to lead the important work this council will do," said Dodds, adding that it was important for the school to bring in outside counsel on this matter.
The 80 student leaders involved in the school’s orientation week will be required to take a sensitivity training seminar before the end of the month
But according to some feminist activists, the school needs to do more to combat what they describe as "casual" attitudes towards sexism.
"There needs to be more than just this sensitivity training. It needs to be broader and there needs to be accountability on student unions, not just at SMU but across the country," Jarrah Hodge, the founder of gender-focus.com, told CTV News Channel.
She said more support needs to be given to campus women’s centres and organizations such as the White Ribbon Campaign, a group organized by men working to end violence against women.
Full statement from Jared Perry:
It is with deep reflection that I tender my resignation, however, I believe this action is in the best interests of the students, the Association and the University at this time. My stepping down allows the Association and its leaders to focus exclusively on the work of re-mediating the damage earlier this week to the reputation of the Association and Saint Mary’s University. My first priority is that remediation and to allow my team to focus directly on their work. It has been an honour to serve the students of Saint Mary’s.
It is also my intention to present myself as a candidate for the position of President in the next election. I am personally deeply committed to addressing the damage incurred this week by being part of a long-term change initiative. Also I believe it is important for the students of Saint Mary’s to directly assess my leadership through the electoral process.
Statement from Saint Mary's University
Two student organizers will face disciplinary action following an orientation week event involving a sexually inappropriate chant at Saint Mary’s University.
A formal complaint was received Friday, September 6. The complaint alleges violations of the Student Code of Conduct for the use of abusive or offensive language or gestures at University sponsored functions.
The code states that non-academic standards of behaviour are as important as academic standards.
Under the code, any member of the University community (i.e. students, faculty, administrators or employees) may lodge a complaint within five days of the complainant having become aware of the misconduct.
The disciplinary hearing is intended to be held within ten days.
If Code violations are substantiated, potential disciplinary penalties range from fines to suspension or expulsion. The disciplinary committee conducting the hearing may consider other appropriate penalties.
The disciplinary panel is composed of the Disciplinary Officer, a student representative, and a University administrator.
As per University policy, the names of the individuals involved will not be released.