So after my rant (because, admittedly, that’s what it was, since it never outlined a suggestion for a solution) on the Sauder cheer uproar, a couple of things have happened: an apology was issued by the CUS, the CUS President & Vice-President have resigned, along with the two co-chairs of Frosh, a press conference was held by the Dean of Sauder, and Frosh has officially been cancelled for next year. More importantly, though, executives from the CUS and AMS will receive sensitivity training with the Sexual Assault Support Centre.
Today’s news of the resignations saddens me a little bit, and especially with the announcement that Frosh is cancelled. While I’m not a Sauder alumni, and while I don’t particularly understand the intensity of any Frosh, the news today harms more than we might think:
- Cancelling Frosh is not the answer. Frosh does help bring people out of their shells, and Frosh is a great way to meet new people: there is a sense of camaraderie that Frosh provides. These chants will obviously never be heard of again or recanted; believe it or not, yes, Frosh does have benefits (note: these benefits will never excuse these chants), and Frosh can still exist without these cheers.
- The pressure placed on these student leaders whose comments were made public is IMMENSE. Do you know how much stress anyone goes when they know they’re about to be punished, and they’re left waiting? I do, having gone through a similar ordeal back in high school – and the train of thought running through your mind is deafening. Whether these leaders were coerced or they chose to resign on their own, it shows that leaders are placed on this pedestal where failure and mistakes are not options.
- Let students make mistakes. I think it’s safe to say none of the leaders promoted rape culture; they unwittingly reinforced it, but that doesn’t make them monsters. If we continue to punish these leaders, it shows that mistakes are not to be tolerated in any form whatsoever. While there’s nothing anyone can do about reinstating these leaders, it’s unfortunate the general climate has pushed them to make such a decision.
- If a Frosh attended had a problem with anything involved in Frosh, who do they turn to? I’ve been seeing a lot of comments such as “If the first-years felt offended, they should say something!” – well, if going into Frosh, you realize that it’s connected to Sauder AND CUS, you might feel there’s no one you can safely turn towards to complain about the activities. Administration should ensure that if there are any students who feel uncomfortable about any of the activities, that there is an individual that is objective, listen to any complaints and can speak up on the students’ behalf.
We can’t change what happened – but to say “Let’s forget about this” or “This was blown out of proportion” downplays the severity of the problem. People need to understand why the general public reacted the way it did. And to forget this issue so quickly silences even more individuals.
But, importantly, the CUS (finally) apologized & proper training is being done.
We need to show that making mistakes is human.
And, of course, the bigger picture here is that there is a discussion about rape culture & what this term means.
And, notably, as others have written about, UBC’s social student culture is at risk (or at least becoming tamer) – and while, again, that doesn’t excuse inappropriate behaviour, it should be possible to have fun without administration breathing down our necks. To stop the support for Frosh, a popular and fun event, shows how out-of-touch Sauder administration really is about this topic.
The problem of this chant is a wider, greater social issue, and is more complex. (There are also more problems on campus dealing with misogyny that deserved far greater exposure.) Cancelling Frosh doesn’t solve anything. Proper education does. Bring back Frosh next year, and teach a new generation of students that leaders can make mistakes, students can bond without being offensive and that a university can be a liberal, fun yet safe and academically-enriching environment.