The Undergraduate Commerce Society is currently under investigation from UTM administration for promoting discriminating and lewd behaviour during their orientation week, titled Biz Frosh in September last year. Last October, two students sent separate emails to UTM Student Union vp equity Saaliha Malik raising their concerns over some of the cheers chanted during the Biz Frosh event. According to Malik, complaints over the Biz Frosh cheers have been coming in for years, but no one has taken any action until this year when the two students, both of whom remain anonymous, filed a formal complaint and a statement citing that they hoped UTMSU would take some form of action on the matter.
Some of the chants that have stirred up the controversy contain several explicit references of a sexual nature, such as one entitled What do you we do. The words to this cheer include, UTM Boys what do we do?/ (boys – make stroking motion) Cum, Cum, Cum, Cum, Cum on you/UTM Girls what do we do?/ (girls) spit, spit, spit, spit, spit on you.
Another one titled Young, includes a verse that is perceived to be highly derogatory towards women and highly suggestive towards underage sex: Y is for your sister/O is oh so tight/U is for underage/N is for no consent/G is for Go to jail/Y-o-u-n-g UT boys we like em young!
According to sources within UCS, most of the chants were written by past Biz Frosh leaders, while some are universally known and practiced during orientation weeks throughout several universities in North America.
At first, Malik tried to meet with some of the UCS council members sometime in late November to get the council to act on the complaints by adapting the policy that UTMSU adapted on sexual harassment and discrimination across campus and campus events.
I met with Jyotin [Handa], president of UCS in November, and he seemed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, and I was under the impression that he and UCS council members were willing to adopt the policy and cooperate in the matter so as to not have this sort of incident repeat itself in the future, explains Malik. However, after meeting with the incoming council on February 26, it was evident that the UCS council was unwilling to recognize their responsibility to adhere to any of the policies on sexual harassment and discrimination.
The UTMSU policy was developed and implemented by Malik at the beginning of the academic year with the intention to eliminate any form of discrimination and sexual harassment during all campus related events.
Another primary reason why the policy was put in place was because of a similar incident involving the student union itself during UTMs Orientation (Frosh) Week. UTMSU are due to submit a report to the Principals Advisory Committee on March 6 detailing the incidents during Frosh Week which also brought about a complaint from one student regarding certain homophobic cheers.
The UTMSU Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination outlines the definitions of sexual harassment and discrimination along with the scope, objectives and complaint procedure of such incidents. It also stipulates that examples of harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination can include sexually oriented remarks, gestures, materials, cheers, announcements including internet, telephone, fax and e-mail messages or other behaviour which may reasonably be perceived to create a negative psychological or emotional environment at an event, work, and/or campaign.
While the policy applies to all UTMSU staff, board of directors, executive committee members, orientation leaders, ministers, work-study personnel, UTMSU cannot sanction any campus club or academic society to strictly adhere to and adopt the policy. They can only mediate and advise an organization to do so, something which Malik had attempted this past week.
UCS have since ignored the complaints and refused to take reasonable measures to address the situation or assume responsibility for the incidents occurring at Biz Frosh, says Malik, who after meeting with the UCS council, passed along the complaints to the University administration and Student Affairs in order for them to take over all dealings on the matter.
Along with Student Affairs, the Department of Management has been notified and is currently looking into the issue. When contacted, Dr. Hugh Gunz, Chair of the Department of Management at UTM, expressed that he was appalled by the content of the chants, which he felt were deeply offensive to many groups and in incredibly poor taste.
Ive heard that it’s being said that the chants are important because theyre part of UCS’s culture. Well, if that’s true, then the culture is going to have to change, because it’s totally inappropriate for any organization in a modern multicultural society, commented Gunz.
The kind of culture that behaviour like this builds is one that creates an in-group by excluding and marginalizing others. Im quite sure that this wasn’t the intention of UCSs leaders, but thats what happens, and its not how we do things at universities, added Gunz, who also announced plans to work with UCSs leaders to make sure that they understand and deal with the situation.
According to Gunz, UCS is an independent student organization which runs its own events. But because some of its funding flows through the department (these funds come from the extra tuition that Commerce students pay) the department holds regular meetings with the UCS president to monitor their activities.
The chant behaviour is all the more unacceptable because we have had complaints in the past few years about it. We have met with previous UCS leaders to explain to them that it shouldn’t happen again. And even after we had their assurance that it wouldn’t, we now find that it has, explains Gunz.
I want to apologize on behalf of the department to anyone who felt themselves excluded from UCS events because, very understandably, they didn’t feel comfortable being surrounded by such behaviour. I also want to thank Saaliha Malik and her colleagues at UTMSU for their efforts in trying to deal with this problem. I share their disappointment that they weren’t able to achieve a resolution.
Gunz went on to stress on how disappointing the whole affair is to the department. In many other respects UCS makes a great contribution to UTM student life. Over the years UCS has run many successful events and has added value to student experience on campus, and I hope that we can move on from this sorry affair so that they can continue to do so.
The department of Management is still in the midst of gathering information on what happened, and will be working closely with the office of the Dean of Student Affairs to ensure that appropriate action is taken. Hence, they are currently not confirmed on how they plan to resolve the issue, although a report from the UCS council, that will determine the departments specific actions on the matter, is due this Monday. If found to be liable, UCS could lose a large percentage of funding from the Department of Management for future year events, such as Biz Frosh, the UCS annual Ski Trip, and the various other academic seminars organized annually by the society.
As well, the Principles Advisory Committee on Diversity and Equity, which is formed of members of the positive space committee at UTM and Principal Ian Orchard, is expected to discuss the matter at their March 6 meeting.
When contacted by The Medium, UCS council member and Biz Frosh coordinator Rick Rizvi and UCS president Jyotin Handa both declined to comment on the issue.
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