In a bold move earlier this January, UBC’s Inter-fraternity Council (IFC) voted unanimously to require every single one of their 1,500 members to complete workshops on sexual consent, bystander intervention, and toxic masculinity. These workshops, run by the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), are designed to work towards dismantling the culture of campus sexual assault that has long since been a feature of college and university campuses all around the world.
Previously, only incoming members, as well as those in executive positions, were required to complete the training. This obvious deficiency was the subject of a condemnatory piece by the Thunderbird, which served to bring attention to the issue. President of the IFC, Jamie Gill, said of the issue at the time “It’s very difficult to make an entire chapter of 100 people attend something like this. Because there’s people we can’t even get to come to meetings…”
He has since changed his tune.
“…just to put any debate to rest, we legally wrote Policy 131 into our own bylaws, just to make sure it was very clear where we stood with that.”
Though the move came perhaps later than would have been ideal, one can only commend the active role that fraternities will now take on in combatting sexual assault. Addressing the concern of toxic masculinity will be a particularly critical step in the long-term success of the program.
For those perhaps unfamiliar with the term, toxic masculinity is defined by a lack of freedom to express emotions and/or distress (what you might also call “bottling up” feelings), and characterizes power as inherently violent and intolerant. The combination of these and other factors create an environment in which men feel compelled (or forced) to prove their masculinity to their male peers, women, and perhaps most crucially, to themselves. Combatting this pervasive cultural norm will be a major focus of the SASC training.
There are certainly those who will argue that these measures are unnecessary, and perhaps even more who will argue that forcing men exclusively to go through the training is counterproductive to the equality that such training purports to promote. The facts of the matter, however, are clear: over 33% of women on Canadian university campuses report being sexually victimized, and a staggering 94% of perpetrators of sexual assault are men. There is no more room for pretending that the issue of sexual assault on campuses is not an epidemic. It needs to be addressed, well, about 40 years ago actually. Immediately is not soon enough, but it will have to do.
A fine of $1,000 per fraternity member will be levied against the fraternities for failure to participate, one hundred percent of which will be donated to the SASC.
It was not but four years ago that the scandal of the Sauder freshman orientation rape chant grabbed nationwide attention. For those of you who don’t remember, this is what those students thought was acceptable:
“At UBC we like ‘em YOUNG!
Y is for your sister!
O is for oh, so tight!
U is for underage!
N is for no consent!
G is for go to jail!
At UBC we like ‘em YOUNG!”
That should not be our legacy — we deserve better than that. And mandatory sexual assault and bystander intervention training is a step in the right direction.