Outrage won’t get us anywhere

Dalhousie is the latest school to make headlines for all the wrong reasons

The year of 2014 was littered with sexual assault scandals and honest discussion about a problem that just won’t go away. In particular, there was a lot of talk about university sexual assault policies and how to deal with allegations of sexual assault.

TRU tackled the matter through an event held by the Wellness Centre. This year’s Sex­ual Health Week, held in early November, focused on what con­stitutes consent and aimed to get students talking about the issue. While the university has not put a sexual assault policy in place (something I think it may soon feel pressure to do), it does have a structure in place to deal with sexual assaults, as reported in our Nov. 12 article on the matter. At any rate, it’s a positive sign that the university is showing some signs of affirming its responsibil­ity for student safety.

Elsewhere, things have been much rockier. Every so often a school emerges as the “rape cul­ture” noisemaker and word of its messy affairs echoes across the country. Last year it was St. Mary’s University (SMU) and UBC’s Sauder School of Busi­ness, where rape chants during Frosh week got a lot of attention. In case you missed the details of these scandals, the chants at both schools were similar, chanting “U is for underage, N is for no con­sent” while spelling “YOUNG,” which according to the chant is “how they like them.”

The noisemaker right now is Dalhousie University. In a private Facebook group called the “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen’s Club,” 13 male students made posts and comments that amounted to flat out sexual harassment and also contained jokes about sexual as­sault. This private group was dis­covered and screenshots were tak­en that exposed who these students were and what they were saying. Specific women were named in a poll asking “Who would you hate fuck?” along with crude rape jokes like “does this smell like chloro­form to you?”

These comments are obvious­ly unacceptable, especially from a group of students about to grad­uate from a professional school, but I think they’re also not very surprising. From my own point of view, which I’ll acknowledge is far removed from the situation, I don’t see the intent behind these posts as sexual harassment or cyber bul­lying. That is certainly what they have become and that is how they will be interpreted, and rightfully so, but I don’t think we’ve uncov­ered a secret group of would-be rapists here. A lot of the pitchforks and torches need to be put away.

These were comments and posts made by students who really weren’t thinking about anything other than impressing their fellow male classmates. This was prob­ably the result of an absurd and damaging game of sleazy one-up­smanship.

There hasn’t been much produc­tive conversation around the Dal­housie scandal. It seems like people are simply too angry at this point. Before comments were closed on CBC’s article about professors go­ing public with a complaint over the matter, there were over 2,600 comments – some just as vitriolic as the very comments that started this scandal. The outrage and en­ergy spent by some over is wasteful and unproductive and only serves to cloud the issue with anger rath­er than point the conversation in the right direction.

People have been saying the most horrible things they can think of on the Internet for about as long as it’s been around. Part of that is because of this “one-ups­manship of shock value” game that some choose to play. The differ­ence with this case, though, is two-fold. First, specific women were named and effectively targeted for this kind of abuse. Second, these students are in their final year of a professional school. By now they should realize that there’s no place in the real world for this kind of “frat bro” nonsense.

On Monday, Dalhousie an­nounced it would be suspending these students. Whether or not that will affect their graduation is yet to be seen. The busting-up of this Facebook group was messier than it needed to be, but with spe­cific people being targeted it was something that had to happen in the interest of student safety. Dal­housie’s reputation may take a hit, but that’s not an issue that should be of concern when students are at risk.