- BC Games
Editorial — High time to discipline student societies
The news about frosh chants at the University of B.C. and St. Mary’s University in Halifax has shone the light of publicity on some of the less-desirable aspects of campus life at many of Canada’s post-secondary institutions, including some of the most prestigious.
The chants which have received attention portray young women as sex objects and glorify violence against women. They are far more than the “school spirit” chants which student leaders say they are, because they put into words what some students actually think about life on campus.
While the respective student societies say they are disciplining the leaders of the specific organizations involved, this is not enough. University leaders and governments may have to become involved.
Student societies on most campuses are notorious for protecting insiders — those deeply involved in student politics. It’s a lucrative profession, as students are forced to pay fees to student societies, whose officers are elected by a tiny percentage of students. They do all they can to entrench themselves in power, and enrich themselves. Getting rid of them when they do something egregious, as happened in the recent past at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is almost impossible.
University administrations have to start getting much tougher with student organizations, and demand far more accountability. This applies in the area of finances, elections, conflict of interest and, as highlighted in this case, initiation procedures.
Provincial governments also have a role to play in this — something they have shied away from. These universities are under the control of provincial legislatures, and most of their operating funds come from taxpayers.
It is appalling that institutions which are supposed to train young people to take their place as responsible adults allow such behaviour to take place. The fact that these frosh chants are supposed to be kept under wraps, and that participants are forced to take part in them, makes matters even worse. Universities are supposed to be a place for free expression, not forced behaviour.
Provincial Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk, a former Langley RCMP inspector, and other provincial governments need to set strict guidelines for student societies, and immediately suspend those societies which do not comply with basic rules of responsible behaviour.