It has not been a good couple of weeks for the University of Ottawa. Little would one suspect that a prominent and respected Canadian campus has run amok with rape, racism, and overall raunchiness as of late. And these issues are not perpetrated by overly intoxicated freshmen either; they are part of a growing trend that is infecting even the highest bodies of student administration.
Most recently, the university’s male hockey team has been knee-deep in sexual assault allegations. Reportedly, police from the city of Thunder Bay are investigating and questioning the players for their involvement in an alleged sexual assault that took place while the team was playing against Lakehead University last month.
As it stands now, it is unclear who precisely was involved in the alleged assault and whether or not is was indeed an incident of rape. What has been made clear is that the evidence police currently possess seems to indicate that it was more than one person involved in the assault. uOttawa’s hockey team has been suspended as a result of the allegations.
Furthermore, rape culture seems to be alive and well on campus. Rape culture refers to the normalization of sexually violent or forceful attitudes in society that lead to an attitude of excusing, tolerating, condoning, or promoting sexually violent or forceful behaviors.
Four students, two of which were elected members of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO or Student Union as it is commonly known) and two who were hired members of the student administration, were involved in a Facebook conversation that suggested that the SFUO President ought to be sexually punished for accused sexual promiscuity.
The remarks, which albeit were originally in French, are too graphic to recount specifically. However, much of the conversation revolved around punishment, rewarding and encouraging rape, and the suggestion that the SFUO President must have STDs.
These explicit and disturbing promotions of rape culture led to the reluctant and unapologetic stepping down of all of those involved in the conversation. However, before that, some of the members of the conversation threatened to sue the SFUO president because she acquired the private Facebook conversation via a third-party leak and disseminated it. For context, that would be equivalent to the Government suing journalists who reported on the NSA security leaks. Except, I doubt that the NSA’s conversation have much of anything to do with sexually punishing their boss.
However, the alleged rape or sexual assault committed by uOttawa’s men’s hockey team and the raunchy rantings of four boys who act like just-pubescent middle-school kids with attention problems are only a part of the problems effecting the Canadian campus. Racism has also run amok, and it is in fact perpetuated by the student union itself.
As part of a larger campaign called “In My Skin,” the elected Student Federation decided that it would tackle issues of racism by creating a dialogue… A dialogue where whites were segregated into one room and everyone else in another. To use the SFUO’s own words, the plan was to have “…all the racialized folks in one room talking about their experiences…” and to have “…non-racialized folks talking about their white privileges (in another room)…”
Yes. Solving racism through racist segregation was their plan. Apparently, according to the SFUO, only whites can be racist. As well, whites are “non-racialized folks,” (whatever that means, really) and all non whites are “racialized folks.” Racism is defined as discrimination or judgement based on the notion that a race possesses specific qualities, characteristics, or abilities. In regards to the “In My Skin,” campaign, the SFUO seriously suggested that all whites possess oppressive traits through their white privilege and all non-whites possess victim experiences through being minorities.
Students responding by asking what they would do if they were mixed, or suggesting that their friends are all going to be in the other room. The backlash was wide-spreading, as one would expect, and several news organizations were quick to pick up the story.
But what is important to note is that the SFUO never apologized or even made an effort to back away from their remarks. In fact, they defended them by suggesting that students misunderstood their campaign and that “reverse racism is a myth.” Basically, rather than apologizing for their racism, the SFUO blamed students who were offended and called their offense a myth.
These blots on the University of Ottawa point too much larger issues that seem to be affecting campuses across North America. With freshman week (or “Froshweek”) activities becoming more and more sexual, some suggest that the deliberate integration of crass activities promote rape culture that in turn defines a part of the student experience. For instance, in another uOttawa incident, a common phrase during Froshweek was “No means ask again in French,” referring to sexual consent and the French-English bilingualism that the university touts.
As well, it is possible to conceive that it is not pure chance that these recent issues with racism have affected uOttawa. Consistently, Ottawa ranks at the bottom in terms of upholding free speech. The University and SFUO routinely censors groups that they do not feel live up to their standard of political correctness. As a result, the SFUO may have become so blinded by its own rhetoric and dogma that it just assumed it is okay to segregate whites from non-whites to discuss racism.
Whatever the cause, one thing remains clear. With these instances of rape, racism, and general raunchiness running amok across Canadian campuses and indeed North American campuses, more constructive action must be taken to right the wrongs that seem to be part of university life. These inescapable scandals and incidents not only hurt the University of Ottawa’s reputation, they threaten the future of the workforce. After all, these same students who have promoted all of these antics are supposed to be the leaders.
Editorial by Brett Byers-Lane