‘It was never meant to be offensive’: frosh leader speaks out about SMU chant
HALIFAX – A frosh week leader who was a part of an offensive and sexist chant says that the chant was never meant to be offensive.
Venktesh Sharma was present Tuesday at the Saint Mary’s University stadium for a frosh week event when frosh leaders did the chant.
The chant goes as follows: “SMU boys 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.”
This is Sharma’s first time being a frosh week leader. He apologizes for the chant, which encourages rape and sexual assault.
“It was just a chant,” he said. “All I can say…it was never meant to be offensive.”
The chant was sung by 300 to 400 students.
“We were given a list of chants and we do those chants,” Sharma said.
The second year student apologized profusely for the chant but when pressed on how he could did not realize it was offensive, Sharma simply apologized again.
“I’m sorry that it happened ok? I really am.”
On Thursday, Jared Perry, president of the SMU Students’ Association, said the chant’s message slipped past him.
“A lot of our cheers, when we do them, we don’t necessarily look at the message. It’s more about the rhyme and the chant behind it,” Perry said.
Perry said he was aware of the chant and had even sung it before in years past. But he admits the chant was a mistake.
“It’s definitely the biggest mistake I’ve made throughout my university career and throughout my life,” he said.
When pressed by Global News about why he did not put a stop to the chant since he knew about it, Perry said it was overlooked.
“In the heat of the moment in orientation week, we weren’t necessarily thinking of that. Now we realize that this is something we should be thinking about.”
University officials met with the students’ association prior to frosh week. Steve Proctor, spokesperson for SMU, says that officials did not know about the chant despite the fact that students say it has been sung for at least four years.
“All I can tell is I’ve spoken to people who are involved there and they indicate they’ve never heard it before. There’s a lot of noise on the field, a lot of words that go on. They report that they have never heard it before. If they had heard it before, they would have shut it down,” Proctor said.
Perry says the chant will never be sung again. “SMUSA would like to apologize to everyone and the community for our part in this awful display,” he said.
He notes that no members of the SMUSA will resign or step down as a result of the incident. The executive and board will be meeting with SMU president Colin Dodds Thursday night to discuss the matter.
Perry says that an investigation is being launched to ensure this type of incident does not happen again. SMUSA will also be working on a plan to open up campus-wide dialogue about sexism, consent and sexual assault.
Apologies aside, many students are still disgusted.
“I worry that it will be promoting that it’s ok to sexually assault a woman when she should have her own opinion,” said Staci Simpson with the SMU Women’s Centre.
“She should be able to say ‘no’ but having something like this will be promoting ‘yes, you can use women as an object’,” she said.
Some students are upset that no one cared until a video was posted online Wednesday.
“I find it a bit odd that this is the first year that anyone said anything about it,” said student Curtis Boucher.
“It’s been going on for apparently four to five years and nobody ever sat down and thought to themselves, ‘hey this is not really a great idea’,” said student Catheryn Ryan.
Perry says that frosh leaders will undergo a sensitivity training but Sharma says this incident will haunt him.
“I’m going to face the consequences and everyone else for the rest of our lives,” he said.