The president of the Saint Mary’s Student Association has resigned after a video of students chanting about the sexual assault of underage girls surfaced online, sparking a national outcry.
Jared Perry said in a release issued late Friday that he is stepping down to allow the student association to focus on remedying the damage done to the reputation of the school.
“It is with deep reflection that I tender my resignation,” said Perry in the release. “However, I believe this action is in the best interests of the students, the association and the university at this time.”
Despite the backlash, Perry said he intends to run as a candidate for the president’s job 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,” he said. “Also, I believe it is important for the students of Saint Mary’s to directly assess my leadership through the electoral process.”
Carrigan Desjardins, the vice-president of student life, has also resigned. The association says Desjardins was responsible for its frosh week program.
Their resignations are effective immediately.
Perry has also stepped down as the chair of Students Nova Scotia, which he announced during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Perry apologized for the incident during the news conference and even admitting to joining in the chant, which he said was the “biggest mistake” he’s ever made.
“It’s a mistake. It’s definitely the biggest mistake I’ve made throughout my university career and probably my life,” he said Thursday, as about 20 of the student leaders stood silently behind him.
The university says two student organizers will also face disciplinary action in connection with the incident after a formal complaint was filed Friday.
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 university says a disciplinary hearing will be held within 10 days, but the students’ names will not be released, as per university policy.
If the students are found to have violated the code of conduct, they could be required to pay a fine, be suspended or even expelled from school.
SMU hires bullying expert after frosh chant backlash
Saint Mary’s University is calling in a familiar expert to clean up the school’s image after a video of students chanting about the sexual assault of underage girls surfaced online, sparking outrage on campus and on social media.
Wayne MacKay, the former head of Nova Scotia’s Cyberbullying Task Force, has been chosen to lead a council created to tackle sexual violence prevention on campus.
“They (Saint Mary’s University) do not accept the kind of conduct that has happened and look forward to changing the culture and making it a safer and more respectful university environment,” says MacKay, who is also a law professor.
The university says MacKay will look at methods to inspire respectful behaviour and a safe learning environment on campus. His group will produce recommendations by the middle of December.
The controversial chant was performed by 80 frosh leaders – both male and female – in front of about 300 of their first-year peers at a frosh week event held Monday.
The students are heard chanting “SMU boys, we like them young. Y is for your sister. O is for oh-so-tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass.”
The video has since been removed from Instagram, a popular social media sharing site.
Alexandria Bennett, a former Saint Mary’s University frosh leader, says the chant isn’t new to her. She was shocked to hear it performed during frosh week last year and eventually quit as a frosh leader.
“It’s not something I want reflected on myself or be part of when it’s reflected on my school,” says Bennett.
She is pleased the university is taking the incident seriously.
“I feel very, very proud of my school. It makes me feel great that I can wear maroon and white and see that my school has taken a very heavy burden in accepting something has gone wrong.”
SMU alumni agree, saying the event doesn’t represent the entire student body.
“I’m certainly proud to be Saint Mary’s alumni and I’m certainly proud that I sat with the Saint Mary’s University Students Association,” says Ian MacInnis.
“I don’t think this event is indicative of the university and it’s certainly not indicative of my time at Saint Mary’s or my experiences at Saint Mary’s University.”
Students, faculty and alumni will get a chance to show off some positive school spirit at Huskies Stadium as Saint Mary’s University takes on Acadia University for its home opener.
“We’re expecting it to be entirely positive,” says Matt Simich, a football player for the Saint Mary’s Huskies. “There’s always going to be people who kind of want to bring you down a bit but we’re expecting it to be entirely positive. There’s a good feeling around the campus and there’s going to be a big crowd.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Ritcey