Talk to your teens about frosh week now. And get them on Twitter.

My son is only 8, but I am thinking this morning about how to prepare him for frosh week at university. And while it obviously is my husband’s and my job to do so, I’m a little angry that apparently we are going to have to teach him not to participate in chanting about having non-consensual sex with underage girls.

Because students at Saint Mary’s University did just that.

20-some years ago I set off for Mount Allison University with two suitcases, a super-exciting dot matrix printer and a naive expectation that I would spend frosh week contemplating my course schedule. The first night, a second-year student took me aside in the hallway and said “wear a bra to bed tonight.”


I did, and I was glad. We were woken up and herded outside in our pajamas to be covered with water, run around a field  for the amusement of older students and yes, learn chants. I was in fact glad my wet top had something underneath it. As it turned out, there were other even more humiliating hazing rituals for students on campus to come, some of them quite sexual in nature.

For many students I’m sure these were taken in a spirit of good fun. But for some of the more vulnerable students, it made for a very rough start. I don’t believe that the “fun” involved trumped the need to create a respectful environment for all the students living and studying on campus. If you said that our kids would start high school chanting this kind of thing, or on the first day of work new hires would participate in a similar event no one would think it’s okay. University should be no different.

Part of becoming an adult is to recognize that how we handle new situations, the image we choose to portray and most importantly, how we show respect — or disrespect — for others is all a part of who we are.

Over the years I was at Mt. A. I saw the culture change to a greater awareness (if imperfectly) and I was really proud to have been one of the young women involved in that change. Despite being aware of the crazy culture we still live in, I really thought the idea that a chant like this one is, you know, somehow okay, was pretty much in the past. While I’m as fond of a good beer garden as the next person, it is absolutely crazy to me that university life still begins with this kind of initiation right here in Canada.

I am a little heartbroken that this is still something I have to keep on my radar as a parent. I will, of course. But really?

One last interesting thing about this story: The response on Twitter to the CBC report was swift and a lot of it was pretty grown-up. Maybe we need to encourage our kids pay attention to social media; to see how women and men around the country respond to this kind of inappropriate language. Well, one can hope, right?

How are you educating your kids about respect for themselves and others at parties and other “wild and crazy” events?