A frosh chant that dragged the Sauder School of Business into the headlines, led to the resignations of four student leaders and triggered an investigation is the kind of teachable moment that no university administrator wants on his lesson plan.
But Stephen Toope, president of the University of British Columbia, will try to make the best of a bad situation when he announces the findings of a fact-finding panel on Wednesday.
“Our university has been in the news since Friday September 6th, and for all the wrong reasons,” he said in a statement released to the campus community, in which he repeatedly apologized for the incident.
“Most of you are rightly concerned not only by the disturbing reports of chants endorsing rape and sexual violence, but you have been waiting for a university response to these reports,” he said after obtaining the results of the investigation on Monday.
The panel has been looking into an incident in which first-year students riding on a bus between frosh events chanted about non-consensual sex with minors. The words to the UBC chant were almost identical to those used by students at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, in an event that sparked controversy and generated national media coverage a few days earlier. The UBC incident was first exposed in a report by the student newspaper, The Ubyssey.
Dr. Toope said he, Robert Helsely, dean of the Sauder School of Business, and Louise Cowin, vice-president students, will provide details on the investigation and announce the specific actions UBC intends to take.
Dr. Helsley has already said the Sauder School of Business will increase curriculum emphasis on “issues related to respect, dignity and ethics,” and the administration has withdrawn sponsorship support for future frosh activities.
But Dr. Toope, who had already announced his intention to leave his post next June, is expected to outline a broader, campus-wide plan concerning student behaviour.
“Some facts have now been established and publicly acknowledged,” he said in his written statement. “Earlier this month, UBC Sauder School of Business first year-students were led in this appalling chant during frosh events organized by the Commerce Undergraduate Society. The C.U.S. is an independent student organization representing students of the UBC Sauder School of Business, and it has publicly admitted the chant was used during their FROSH events. Four of their leaders have now resigned,” he said.
Among those to step down in the wake of the scandal were CUS president Enzo Woo and vice-president of engagement Gillian Ong.
Dr. Toope said the fact-finding panel was struck immediately after the chants came to light. “The university will quickly determine what actions are appropriate, and this will be made public,” he promised.
“I am very sorry for what our first-year Sauder students were exposed to,” he said. “They deserve better, which is why we strive to ensure both our own orientation activities and those run by student organizations are designed to make newcomers feel respected, safe and engaged. I am also very sorry for how these reports may have affected all members of our UBC community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and our many partners and champions.”
The UBC Alma Mater Society has also been investigating the incident. Communications manager Abby Blinch said in an e-mail Tuesday that the AMS is withholding comment until after Dr. Toope has released the administration’s findings.
In a joint statement last week, the AMS and CUS apologized “for the offensive and unacceptable conduct of the leaders tasked with welcoming students to our institution,” and promised “to ensure such chants, or any offensive or derogatory conduct, never again occur within an AMS sanctioned event.”