The "young" chant, as shouted out by UBC students, goes like this:
"Y-O-U-N-G 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."
Last week, videos surfaced showing groups of students at St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia and UBC students in Vancouver shouting out the offensive refrain at frosh week events.
The chant is crude, tasteless and its dangerous, condoning of the rape of young women is disgusting.
The problem can't be fixed, however, with a simple ban of chants like these, along with some newly drafted and well-meaning student policy set by the university.
For the uninitiated, "frosh" are first-year undergraduates at Canadian universities. Concerts, barbecues and other fun events are held to bring students together, welcome first-year students into the university community and to have a blast, and not necessarily in that order of importance.
For the concerned grownups wringing their hands at this appalling public conduct, Animal House behaviour continues to reign at colleges and universities, particularly in the first week of school and after the official, good clean fun events have wrapped up for the day.
Mid-terms, research papers, all-night labs and final exams are distant threats on the horizon. It's time to party. Alcohol and illicit drugs are available in ample quantity and the air is thick with sexual tension. What else should society expect when bringing thousands of young people together, many of them away from home and active adult supervision for the first time in their lives?
The surprise isn't that young university students are still repeating such horrible chants in 2013. The two real surprises are that this doesn't come to light more often and that the rest of society reacts with such shock and horror when it does.
The notion that these young people should have known better and need more sensitivity training misses the point.
They did know better.
They knew it was offensive.
They knew they were saying something horrible and wrong.
They were shouting it for the express purpose of being crude and offensive, raising a defiant middle finger to social standards and political correctness. The real words behind the chant are "you can't tell us what to do, you can't tell us what to say, we're adults now and if anybody doesn't like what we're doing, they can go pound sand."
Furthermore, there's probably a law student somewhere already preparing a constitutional challenge to any university policy that would ban this type of behaviour, arguing that it's a violation of the charter rights surrounding freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
We all need to recognize that young Canadian adults have the right to be stupid. As long as their conduct is not illegal or dangerous, they're free to act like idiots, as these students at St. Mary's and UBC clearly have.
In the meantime, we can hope they will learn that words have power and words, said out loud or in print, can cause great harm, even when used without intent to do damage. Particularly on university campuses, where sexual assaults and harassment happen far too often, this chant is not innocent fun, it's nothing less than a blatant threat to cause harm.
Hopefully, the students will also learn from this disgraceful episode that the best way to prove adulthood to the rest of the world is to act like one, in deed and in thought.
No time like the present to get started.