A Saint Mary’s University panel appointed by the Halifax school after a frosh week chant glorifying non-consensual underage sex with girls was posted online makes 20 recommendations aimed at preventing and addressing sexual violence.
But Wayne MacKay, who led the panel, said it will take a societal change to better deal with sexual violence in Nova Scotia.
“It’s not just a chant; it really represents much more,” said MacKay, a professor at Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law and an expert in cyberbullying issues
“Women still do not receive the equality and the respect they deserve … the chant is not much ado about nothing.”
University president Colin Dodds appointed the panel after a video on Instagram showed student leaders singing the chant to about 400 new students at a frosh-week event in September.
The 110- page report's recommendations include:
Developing a code of conduct.
Establishing a sex assault team.
Implementing a policy to deal with drugs and alcohol on campus.
The panel said students needs to learn what consent means.
MacKay said it was alarming to find out how many students they talked to were clueless about consent.
“Grey areas, blurred lines these kinds of thing,” he said.
When it comes to safety, the review recommended creating alcohol-free spaces on campus and a safe place for sex assault victims, extending night patrol hour, and installing cameras in the stairwells, hallways and elevators.
There is also a push for the university to better investigate allegations of sexual assault and discipline perpetrators.
MacKay said he’s not trying to lay blame since sexualized culture is not solely Saint Mary’s problem, but a societal issue that needs to shift.
“Universities are a microcosm of the larger society," he said. “Saint Mary’s has a wonderful opportunity to be a role model."
MacKay said only eight per cent of sexual assaults in Nova Scotia are reported.
Dodds promised a university team will monitor the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
He added that the university is also examining its relationship with the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association, including organizing Orientation Week.
The report panel included five women and three men who consulted with students, faculty and alumni about ways to avoid other incidents.
He said their mandate was to foster a cultural change to promote respectful behaviour.
“It’s a task we throw out to the university,” he said. “Universities are a microcosm of the larger society.”
In the chant’s aftermath, student union president Jared Perry resigned, a Calgary man returned his degrees, and all the 80 frosh week leaders and the entire Saint Mary’s University student union executive was ordered to take sensitivity training.