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The Saint Mary's University Chant

...and why you should care

by Martin Chandler

Frosh week activities have a long history of acting as a milestone, breaking the student away from their previous life and entering the new world of university, higher education, and self-sufficiency.


While orientation, initiation, and hazing have long been considered difficult, it tends to be cursory consideration. Indeed, those leading the activities give no thought to their meaning, and those meant to oversee are often absent. This is the crux of the ethical problem created by this chant.


Modern ethics are uncertain at best. The good of the Internet is the free expression and sharing of ideas; not all ideas are good, and not all are balanced, but the voices on the fringes give shape to the multitude in the centre, who hold a balanced approach between binaries; there are many facets and nuances to most questions. The only unifying characteristic is that we all want to be good people; how we define what good is varies, but we all want to act good.


The defining qualities of any action, however, are the intention held by the actor, and the outcome of the action itself. The outcome may be good, and many may be helped by it, but if the actor intended the action maliciously, it was unethical for them to act. Likewise, the intention may have been good, but if the outcome is harmful, the action is, again, harmful.


Enter the chant from Saint Mary's (and, it would seem, UBC). The intention is tenuously, at best, well-meant; to introduce students to university with a series of rituals. However, the intent of the originators of the chant is clear, as are the outcomes of it; the dehumanization of half of the population.


It very clearly outlines who is most liked by "Saint Mary's boys"; underage, non-consenting women. The act of rape itself is quite clearly morally reprehensible; the intent is the domination and use of another being for one's own benefit, against their will, and in a way that severely damages that other person. There is no means of justifying rape ethically.


The reduction of women to objects of desire, specifically for the act of rape, is, then ethically horrendous. This is the cause of the severe backlash against the chant, and the reason so many are so angered by it.


There have been many, in the past few days, who have complained about the response to this as being too "PC", or that it was "just a chant, they weren't paying attention to the words". This may, in some cases, excuse the intention, but the outcome remains the same: the dehumanization of women.


They cannot, therefore, be called good people. Do I think they are capable of good? Yes, so long as they are willing to recognize their failings, and work to improve. But the use of this chant is, in no way, morally defensible. And the failure lies with the one who commits the action.

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