In past weeks, Saint Mary’s University has made a mark in the national media. With the infamous ‘rape-chant’ still circulating the news, the university’s reputation is at stake. Most recently, student union president Jared Perry and vice president of student life Carrigan Desjardins resigned under pressure created by the public and media.
Before I continue on with this piece, I’d like to state that there is no way to defend such behaviour from frosh leaders, and rightful action must be taken. But should the blame fall entirely on the student leaders directly involved?
In the past few days, national and social media have depicted this incident with Perry at its centre. It was amplified mainly because of his inability to handle sharp questions from veteran journalists, and his ego, which made him pledge candidature for another upcoming student election.
Let’s take a breather for a second. If you were in his shoes, how would you have handled this issue? I can only imagine the pressure of speaking in front of national media only to be quoted selectively. The fact of the matter is that regardless of what came out of Perry’s mouth, it was pre-determined that he was to take the blame, and the fall, for the actions of foolish young frosh leaders.
In the past few days, Perry has taken quite the blow to his reputation, as well as to his personal dignity. Numerous threats and discussions regarding his future career has thrived among social media, and the truth of the matter is that it will hurt his future career prospects. Besides focusing on Perry, we should ask: what was the SMU administration’s role in all this? And was it Perry’s sole responsibility to micromanage the activities taking place at SMU during frosh week? If not, is it really fair for Perry to take all the blame?
Whether he likes it or not, Perry will be remembered as the student president who promoted the rape of young females. But in my opinion, he is nothing but a figurehead on whom the media has decided to pin its focus, and the university has failed to defend its student. By creating a figurehead, it creates the illusion that justice has been served— but there were no mentions of direct interviews nor apologies from frosh leaders who actually led freshmen into chanting such terrible verses. Perhaps it’s in the best interest of SMU to further silence students and members of administration: keeping the university’s reputation up is closely correlated with the future financial prospects of the institution.
Let’s not forget: Perry is just another young student in his 20s with limited life experience. There was no winner in this incident— not the community of Halifax, not SMU, and certainly not Jared Perry. As of now, we have two choices. We can either choose to ignore the real problem that lies behind the curtains and jeopardize this young man’s future, or we can take a closer look at how orientation activities are run, improve, and move on knowing that the right course of action has been taken. The choice is yours.