HALIFAX -- Student leaders at Saint Mary's University were widely criticized Thursday for performing a frosh-week chant glorifying the sexual assault of underage girls that has been part of orientation activities at the Halifax school for years.
Politicians, school administrators and students said they were shocked by a video of the song that circulated in social media, which spells out the word "young" with a comment after each letter and includes: "Y is for your sister... U is for underage, N is for no consent..."
The chant was performed to about 400 students assembled on the football field at the university as part of its orientation week. A video of it was posted on Instagram Wednesday, causing a deluge of criticism here and abroad.
Jared Perry, president of the Saint Mary's Students' Association, apologized Thursday for performing the chant with 80 male and female orientation leaders.
"We're deeply sorry and we want to turn this around," he told a news conference, as about 20 of the leaders stood silently behind him.
"We've realized we made a huge mistake."
He said they will launch an investigation into the incident and try to determine how the school can prevent sexual assaults on campus, while addressing what he referred to as a "culture of sexism" at the university.
Perry added the same chant has been part of frosh events since at least 2009 when he sang it as his initiation, with the lyrics being passed down on paper to orientation leaders. But he couldn't explain why no one had raised concerns about it previously.
"The fact that this sort of thing was able to happen at this scale and that some (leaders) don't understand the seriousness of it tells me that there is a problem of a culture of sexism that demands attention and real action on this campus," he said.
Several Nova Scotia politicians and advocates for victims of sexual assault voiced their dismay over the chant, which comes in the wake of several recent provincial initiatives to combat non-consensual sex.
-- The Canadian Press